Los Angeles Times: NFL players again 'take a knee' as Trump renews his attacks
In silent rebuttal of criticism from President Trump, NFL players in the sport's first game of the day kneeled during the national anthem, while other locked arms in solidarity.
The opening moments of the game, played in London, featured numerous players from both the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars kneeling. Their protest came just hours after Trump fired off a pair of early-morning tweets again assailing professional athletes who have staged “take a knee” protests during the playing of the national anthem, and urging fans to shun games.
"If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!" @realDonaldTrump
Trump's attacks brought a strongly worded rebuttal from an NFL owner who is close to the president: New England Patriots CEO and owner Robert Kraft, who complimented players and said he was “deeply disappointed” by the tone of Trump’s comments on Friday. Kraft said he supported players’ rights to “peacefully affect social change and raise awareness.”
Kraft has been a significant donor to Trump's campaigns and once gave Trump a Super Bowl ring. The criticism from him, which was issued in his own name, rather than simply as a statement from the team, provided a further indication of of how deeply Trump's statements of the last 48 hours have alienated him from professional football.
In his tweets Sunday, Trump also suggested that any drop in NFL game attendance was due to the disgruntlement of fans who objected to the protests, originally intended to call attention to police shootings of unarmed black men and to the Black Lives Matter movement.
He also repeated his previous contention that rules meant to protect players from traumatic brain injuries had made professional football “boring.”
"...NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S." @realDonaldTrump
The president ignited the racially charged controversy on Friday night with a campaign-style speech in Alabama in which he referred to any player taking part in such protests as a “son of a bitch.”
That drew a fusillade of criticism on Saturday from pro athletes who have taken part in the protests, their supporters and a number of major league franchise owners, and a succession doubling-down tweets from Trump.
On Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he thought Trump's quarrel with the NFL was ill advised.
"If I were president, I probably would not get involved in this," Paul said in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The president’s surrogates hurried to his defense on Sunday, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin saying Trump was right to decry the “take a knee” protests as disrespectful.
“They can do free speech on their own time,” Mnuchin said of the professional athletes involved, speaking on ABC’s “This Week.”
Asked about the president’s use of a profanity to describe the protesting players, Mnuchin said: “I think the president can use whatever language he wants to use.”
Mnuchin’s comments then drew a sharp riposte from Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who said on Twitter that the treasury secretary did not seem to understand First Amendment protections.
"I am beginning to think that in govt, you are stupid as a rock," Lieu tweeted. "US Constitution also applies to NFL players. Get it?"