Illinois gov: Protesting NFL players are 'disrespecting the foundations of our country'

Illinois gov: Protesting NFL players are 'disrespecting the foundations of our country'

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) said that NFL players protesting the national anthem are “disrespecting” the flag, country and anthem.

The governor weighed in on the controversy to Politico after Sunday’s NFL game at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The entirety of the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in the locker room during "The Star-Spangled Banner," except for one player. 

“To me they are disrespecting the foundations of our country, the veterans who risked their lives for our democracy, and the men and women who fight every day and make the ultimate sacrifice to defend our liberties,” Rauner said through a spokesman.

Rauner has a financial stake in the Steelers, according to Politico.

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The Republican governor said he did not condone the Steelers’ behavior but that the First Amendment guarantees the right of players to “choose to be disrespectful.”

“Our country is great because it guarantees freedom of expression,” Rauner said.

President Trump has heavily criticized players for kneeling during the anthem to protest racial inequality. At an Alabama campaign rally Friday night for Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeGOP sen: ‘Just a fact’ Moore will face ethics complaint if elected Trevor Noah: Trump must be ‘morally degenerate’ to back Roy Moore Moore gets boost from Bannon in final days of campaign MORE (R-Ala.), he called for NFL owners to fire athletes who protest the national anthem, prompting numerous instances of players kneeling, locking arms or staying in locker rooms during the anthem across the nation this weekend.

The Chicago Bears stayed on the field during the anthem, linking arms in a display of unity while remaining standing.

A team statement from the Bears said that the “divisive political situation” that the protests have brought on have unified the NFL by prompting dialogue between players.

“The Chicago Bears are proud to support our players, coaches and all members of our organization to bring peace and unity together through football,” the statement reads. “What makes this the greatest country in the world are the liberties it was founded upon and the freedom to express oneself in a respectful and peaceful manner.”