Trump raises national anthem debate during State of the Union

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE alluded on Tuesday to his push for professional athletes to stand for the national anthem as he delivered his first State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress.

In his speech, the president applauded Preston Sharp, a young boy who has organized a campaign to place flags on soldiers' graves. He said the boy's work was a reminder of why it's important to "stand for the national anthem."

"Preston's reverence for those who have served our nation reminds us of why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance and why we proudly stand for the national anthem," Trump said to applause.

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Trump ignited a feud last year with the NFL after he called for team owners to fire players who kneel during the national anthem.

The sideline protests began in 2016 with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during "The Star-Spangled Banner" at football games to protest racial inequality and police misconduct.

Trump has insisted that the protests are insulting to the military, and has called for the NFL to enact a rule forcing players to stand for the national anthem.