US President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Sunday (24 September) morning to continue attacking NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem in protest against racial inequality in the country. Over the weekend, Trump criticised players across the league who showed their defiance by locking arms and kneeling during their respective games saying they should be removed from the field or fired.
"If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flat (or country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, you're fired. Find something else to do."
Trump's comments immediately drew fierce comments from league executives, coaches, star players and fans while a number of players demonstrated during their own games on Sunday.
Trump doubled down on his criticism and appeared to call for a boycott saying: "If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend.
"NFL attendance and ratings are way down. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back US." He later said that standing with locked arms is good, but kneeling is "not acceptable".
Trump's tweets came after he rescinded a White House invitation to NBA star Stephen Curry who voiced his reluctance to visit the White House to commemorate the Golden State Warriors' 2017 championship victory. At a rally in Alabama for Republican Senator Luther Strange on Friday, Trump said players who refuse to stand show a "total disrespect of our heritage".
Since former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee last season, several NFL players have chosen to kneel, sit or raise fists during the anthem to protest against social injustice and racial inequality in the US.
"That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for," Trump said, encouraging team owners to take action. He added: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a b**ch off the field right now. Out! He's fired." He later told reporters that his remarks had "nothing to do with race".
Twitter erupted with furious criticism over Trump's remarks against NFL players and their right to protest with many using the viral hashtag #TakeAKnee. Many also slammed the president for focusing on sports rather thanhurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
"You are an utter disgrace to the freedoms that people have fought and died for. These players are by definition expressing those freedoms," singer Terry McDermott tweeted.
The American Civil Liberties Union tweeted: "Dear @POTUS, Your comments about #TakeAKnee confuse dissent with disrespect. Dissent is not disrespect. It's patriotic."
Democratic congressman Mark Takano tweeted: "Supporting our troops, taking pride in our flag, and protesting our chronic racial inequality are all acts of patriotism. #TakeAKnee".
"Trump is treating our flag as a symbol that represents allegiance to his power. That's about as un-American as it gets," one person tweeted. Dolphins' safety Michael Thomas wrote: "Continue to use your voices and your platforms for racial equality and to stop injustices in our communities. This is bigger than us!!!"