“Two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem, showing total disrespect to our Flag & Country,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning. “No leadership in NFL!”
NFL commissioner Roger Goddell said last week that he believes players "should" stand for the anthem, but that team owners and other officials are focused on understanding the issues that are prompting the protests. He said that players will not be penalized if they choose to kneel during the anthem.
"I think our clubs all see this the same way -- we want our players to stand, we're going to encourage them to stand and we're going to continue to work on these issues in the community," Goodell said Tuesday at a news conference following the Fall League Meeting in New York.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling during the anthem last year, to protest police violence against minorities. The protest got mixed reactions, but other NFL players -- and players in other sports -- have since followed Kaepernick’s lead, to protest inequality.
“They're talking about criminal justice reform,” Goddell said last week. “They're talking about changes that, I think, will make our communities better -- that there's bipartisan support for and that need focus. … They're talking about equality issues, making sure we're doing everything we possibly can to give people an opportunity, whether it's an education or economic and what we can do to try to effectuate that. And we believe, with the players, that we can help them, we can support them. And those are our issues, national issues, American issues that are all important."
Trump suggested last month that NFL team owners should fire players who refuse to stand during the anthem, telling a crowd in Alabama that “that’s a total disrespect for our heritage.”
Goddell said last week that players “are not doing this in any way to be disrespectful to the flag, but they also understand how it's being interpreted, and we're dealing with those underlying issues."