President Trump said Sunday that his criticism of NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem “has nothing to do with race,” but rather is about respect for the U.S. and the flag.
“This has nothing to do with race. I never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else. This has to do with respect for our country and respect for our flag,” Trump said on the tarmac of Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey, per White House pool reports.
The president’s comments come as NFL players across the country protested during the national anthem at Sunday football games after Trump suggested team owners should fire players who take a knee during the song.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired,' " Trump said at the Alabama rally on Friday evening.
The form of protest originated with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who first took a knee last year during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.
“It’s very disrespect to our flag and to our country, so I certainly think the owners should do something about it,” Trump told reporters on Sunday.
Both Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinFormer Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report Menendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan MORE and White House director of legislative affairs Marc Short in Sunday interviews emphasized that the president’s comments are not about race.
"The president is not looking at this through a racial lens,” Short told “Fox News Sunday.”