Mnuchin: NFL players ‘can do free speech on their own time’

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Sunday defended President Trump's attacks on NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, saying members of the league "can do free speech on their own time."

"I think what the president is saying is that the owners should have a rule that players should have to stand in respect for the national anthem," Mnuchin told ABC's Martha Raddatz on "This Week."

"This isn't about Democrats, it's not about Republicans, it's not about race, it's not about free speech. They can do free speech on their own time. That this is about respect for the military and first responders in the country," he continued. 

Mnuchin's comments come after Trump launched a series of attacks on Friday night on NFL players who have chosen to kneel, rather than stand, during the national anthem to protest what they see as racial injustice in the U.S.

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"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now,'" Trump said, adding, "'He is fired.'"

Mnuchin also defended Trump's colorful language in criticizing the players. 

“The president can use whatever language he wants to use," Mnuchin said Sunday.

The president doubled down on his remarks on Twitter Saturday, saying if those players do not want to stand during the national anthem, they should find something else to do.  

The league's commissioner, Roger Goodell, on Saturday also issued a statement condemning Trump's "divisive" rhetoric.

“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” Goodell said. “There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we've experienced over the last month.”