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Trump says he wants NFL to play, unless players kneel

Trump says he wants NFL to play, unless players kneel
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE said in a recent interview that he wants the NFL to play games soon, but not if players decide to participate in kneeling protests against racial injustice during the national anthem.

“They want to open and they want to open badly and they’ve been working with government. I would say this: If they don’t stand for the national anthem, I hope they don’t open. But, other than that, I’d love to see them open and we're doing everything possible for getting them open,” Trump said during a radio interview on "Outkick The Coverage” with Clay Travis on Tuesday. “They can protest in other ways, they shouldn’t protest our flag or our country.” 

“If they don’t stand for the flag and stand strongly, I'd be very happy if they didn’t open. That being said, I'd love to see them open,” Trump again said.

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Trump is referring to the kneeling protests against racial inequality that began with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the 2016 season. Kaepernick, who was the first NFL player to kneel during the national anthem to protest treatment of people of color in the U.S., was often targeted by Trump and other conservatives for his demonstrations, which they have called unpatriotic. 

Debate around the form of protest has reignited in recent months amid widespread demonstrations against racism and police brutality sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in late May after a white police officer kneeled on his neck during an arrest for more than eight minutes.

The comments by Trump come months after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell encouraged peaceful protests against police brutality and said the league was “wrong for not listening" to players in the past. The apology came amid backlash against the league over its past handling of the kneeling protests and renewed light on its 2018 policy, which was later halted, that required players to stand for the anthem when on the field.

Trump’s remarks also arrive weeks after he characterized himself as “an ally of all peaceful protesters” in an address from the Rose Garden, while urging against looting and rioting seen in parts of the nation days after Floyd’s death.

In his interview on Tuesday, Trump also knocked the recent wave of kneeling protests during the national anthem that NBA teams have taken part in as the season returned, saying he thinks the movement has “been horrible for basketball.” 

“People are angry about it,” Trump claimed. “They don’t realize, they don’t want — they have enough politics with guys like me. They don’t need more as they’re driving down, going up for the shot."