WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump praised NFL team owners for doing the “right thing” in requiring NFL players to stand during the national anthem this season, and suggested those who don’t stand maybe “shouldn’t be in the country.”
“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem and the NFL owners did the right thing if that’s what they’ve done,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News that aired Thursday morning. Trump, who had been speaking at a roundtable on immigration when the policy was announced Wednesday, was informed of the new rule by “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade.
“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing. You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country,” Trump said.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the new policy Wednesday, requiring players and personnel to stand for the national anthem or face fines, though each team may develop its own work rules regarding those who do not comply with the policy. The new policy does give players the option to remain in the locker room during the playing of the anthem if they do not wish to comply.
“Well I think that’s good,” Trump told Fox News. “I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still I think it’s good.”
Trump added that it’s “something ideally could have been taken care of when it first started. That would have been a lot easier.”
In 2016, Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers quarterback at the time, drew national attention for refusing to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” saying he would not honor a song nor “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
It led Trump to suggest during a rally last September that owners should fire their players for taking a knee during the anthem, inserting himself into a national controversy over race and the right to protest.
Asked if his voice prompted the NFL rule change, Trump credited “the people” rather than himself.
“I think the people pushed it forward. This was not me. I brought it out. I think the people pushed this forward,” Trump said. “This country is very smart. We have very smart people.”