White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, grilled Monday over President Donald Trump’s assertion that NFL players should be “fired” for protesting during the national anthem, suggested that athletes should protest “officers on the field that are protecting them instead of the American flag.”
Many of the questions Sanders received during the press briefing focused on Trump’s remarks from a Friday-night Alabama rally, during which he suggested that NFL coaches might get a “son of a b—-” who protests during the national anthem “off the field.” Trump dug in and doubled down on the remarks in tweets and comments over the weekend and into Monday.
Dozens of NFL players demonstrated during the league’s slate of games on Sunday, and Trump’s remarks became the central focus of the sports world.
Sanders was asked about the president saying the protests had nothing to do with race, as a reporter highlighted that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick “took to his knees in these games, many of these games, specifically because he said black people in this country were not being treated fairly by police.”
“How is that not an issue of race?” the reporter asked.
Sanders responded, “I think the focus has long since changed and certainly the message in a lot of what has been communicated over these last several weeks through this process, through these protests by these players.” She did not provide additional clarity as to how the message had changed.
A separate reporter followed up by tying Trump’s remarks about the NFL players to his response to the white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia last month. Trump has said that there were some “very fine” people protesting at the rally who were simply trying to prevent the removal of Confederate monuments.
“But when white supremacists say their message is about heritage and not hate, the president does take them at their word,” the reporter said. “So why is there this disparity about who gets to decide what protest is about?”
Sanders replied, “I think if this is the debate is really for them about police brutality, they should probably protest the officers on the field that are protecting them instead of the American flag.”
She later said that she was not advocating for players to protest the on-field officers.
Sanders did not describe what such a protest would entail.
Some NFL players, starting with Kaepernick, began taking a knee during the singing of the national anthem last year to highlight what they believe to be the mistreatment of black Americans in the US, particularly by the police.
Watch her comment below:
Sarah: If the protest is about police brutality “they should protest the officers on the field that are protecting them instead of the flag” pic.twitter.com/WySQNK5Epm
— David Mack (@davidmackau) September 25, 2017
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