President Trump said in an interview broadcast Thursday that NFL team owners are "in a box," adding that they are "afraid" of players who protest during the national anthem.

"I have so many friends that are owners. And they're in a box. I mean, I've spoken to a couple of them, they say 'we are in a position where we have to do something,'" Trump told Fox News's "Fox and Friends." "I think they're afraid of their players, you want to know the truth. It's disgraceful."

"They have rules for everything. You can't dance in the end zone, you can't wear the pink socks relative to breast cancer, they have rules for everything," Trump added. "Why aren't they honoring this country by enforcing a rule that's been in existence for a long time?"

The president added that NFL owners need to make a choice between players and fans quickly, pointing to declining stadium attendance and poor ratings. 

"They've got to be tough, and they've got to be smart. Because you look at the ratings, the ratings are going way down. Stadiums are, I've seen a couple of stadiums over the last few weeks, there are a lot of empty seats. I couldn't even believe it.

"But when it comes to the respect of our nation, when it comes to the respect our anthem and our flag, they have no choice."

Sunday and Monday night's NFL ratings reportedly increased, however, after the president's comments over the weekend.

During a fiery campaign rally in Alabama last week, Trump called on NFL owners to "drag" players who kneel during the national anthem in protest "off the field."

He has since doubled down on those comments, urging the NFL to make a rule banning protests during the anthem.

"The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations," Trump tweeted Tuesday. "The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can't kneel during our National Anthem!"