White House: Trump doesn’t view NFL anthem protests as free speech issue

The White House said Tuesday that President Trump doesn’t view NFL players protesting during the national anthem as an issue of free speech.

During Tuesday’s briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders applauded the Supreme Court’s ruling that a Colorado baker could not be compelled to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because doing so would violate his religious freedom.

Sanders was then asked why the White House supports the baker’s First Amendment rights, but not NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem. 


“The president doesn’t think that this is an issue simply of free speech,” Sanders responded. “He thinks it’s about respecting the men and women of our military, it’s respecting our national anthem and it’s about standing out of pride for that.”

Her comments came minutes before the White House was set to host a “Celebration of America” event in place of a ceremony honoring the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

Trump disinvited the Eagles from the White House late Monday amid reports that approximately 10 players planned to attend the event.

The president also cited the team’s views about national anthem protests in explaining the cancelation. His criticism of the protests reignited a furor over the controversial practice, despite the fact that no Eagles players took a knee last season.

Pressed on the reason for cancelling the event, Sanders on Tuesday cast blame on the Eagles and called the team’s decision to send just a few players a “political stunt.”

“The Eagles are the ones that changed their commitment at the last minute,” she told reporters.

“If this wasn’t a political stunt by the Eagles franchise, then they wouldn’t have planned to attend the event and then backed out at the last minute,” she added. “And if it wasn’t a political stunt, they wouldn’t have attempted to reschedule the visit while the president was overseas.”

Sanders did not directly respond to a reporter who asked if Trump is aware that players protest during the national anthem to raise awareness of social justice issues, such as police brutality against minorities.

“He feels strongly that standing for our national anthem is something that we should do, something that matters to what makes our country special and unique,” Sanders said. “He’s not going to waver on that, and he’s not going to apologize for it.”

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