White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued on Monday that the media was “missing the entire purpose of the message” when it came to President Donald Trump’s criticism of NFL players who kneel during the national anthem.
Sanders was asked during the White House press briefing on Monday what message Trump intended to send by “emphasising sports” with his tweets about the national anthem protests, while seeming to ignore other issues like the hurricane recovery effort in Puerto Rico.
“He’s not emphasising sports. You’re missing the entire purpose of the message,” Sanders said. “He’s emphasising something that should be unifying. Celebrating and promoting patriotism in our country is something that should bring everybody together.”
More than 100 NFL players joined a growing wave of protests against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem at football games on Sunday, two days after Trump said team owners should fire players who don’t stand for the anthem.
Trump also tweeted his frustration with the NFL, blasting league commissioner Roger Goodell for allowing the protests. The president encouraged fans to boycott the league if they continue. On Sunday, almost each of the 32 NFL teams released a statement expressing solidarity with players who chose to participate in pregame demonstrations, and three owners stood with their team’s players on the sidelines as the anthem was performed.
Later that day, Trump signalled his approval of players and owners standing arm-in-arm on the field during the national anthem, and again criticised the act of kneeling: “Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country,” Trump tweeted. “Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!”
And on Monday, Trump again expressed his ire toward kneeling, seeming to misinterpret its original meaning: “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”
The protests kicked off a nationwide debate in 2016, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the playing of the anthem to raise awareness of police brutality and racism against African-Americans.
Kaepernick left the 49ers at the end of the season and remains unsigned, leading some to question whether NFL owners had blacklisted the quarterback to avoid attracting controversy.
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