US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that American football players who refuse to stand for the national anthem – most of whom have been African Americans protesting police brutality – maybe “shouldn‘t be in the country.”
Trump‘s controversial remarks came as video emerged of another questionable encounter between US police and a young black man – this time a professional basketball player.
Trump welcomed the new National Football League (NFL) rule that players must stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” at games unless they stay in the locker room.
“Well, I think that‘s good,” Trump told the “Fox & Friends” TV show. “I don‘t think people should be staying in locker rooms.
“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn‘t be playing,” he said. “You shouldn‘t be there. Maybe you shouldn‘t be in the country.
“NFL owners did the right thing if that‘s what they have done,” Trump said.
Colin Kaepernick, the then-quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, began the kneeling protests in 2016 to draw attention to police brutality and racial inequality.
Kaepernick‘s protest followed a wave of deaths of black men during encounters with law enforcement.
Last year, Trump described players who went down on one knee during the anthem as “sons of bitches” who were insulting the flag and the nation.
The remarks prompted a wave of protests across the league in September, angering some fans and placing several conservative, Trump-supporting team owners in an awkward position as NFL television ratings dropped.
The latest case to highlight the fraught relationship between black communities and police involved an NBA player, Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Brown, 23, was hit with a stun gun and arrested in January after he parked his car late at night in a handicapped parking space.
Milwaukee police chief Alfonso Morales apologized on Wednesday and said disciplinary action had been taken against the officers involved.
Brown said he was taking legal action against the Milwaukee police department and that the experience was “was wrong and shouldn‘t happen to anybody.
“What should have been a simple parking ticket turned into an attempt at police intimidation, followed by the unlawful use of physical force, including being handcuffed and tased, and then unlawfully booked,” he said in a statement.
“Situations like mine and worse happen every day in the black community,” Brown said. “The common denominator in all of these situations has been racism towards the minority community, the abuse of power, and the lack of accountability for officers involved.”
The Milwaukee Bucks threw their support behind Brown, saying there “needs to be more accountability.”
“The abuse and intimidation that Sterling experienced at the hands of Milwaukee Police was shameful and inexcusable,” the team said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, this isn‘t an isolated case,” the team said. “It shouldn‘t require an incident involving a professional athlete to draw attention to the fact that vulnerable people in our communities have experienced similar, and even worse, treatment.”
A number of NBA players reacted to the disturbing video with the Twitter hashtag #StandwithSterling.
Jets owner will pay fines
Trump declined in the “Fox & Friends” interview to take credit for the NFL policy change, saying that although he raised the issue, “the people pushed it forward.”
He did retweet a tweet by Vice President Mike Pence, who walked out on an NFL game in Indianapolis after some players kneeled for the anthem.
Pence tweeted a headline of the NFL announcement Wednesday under the hashtag “Winning” and an American flag.
The new NFL policy removes a requirement that all players be on the field for the anthem, allowing players who do not wish to stand to remain in the locker room.
All NFL players, however, who are on the field are required to stand.
Teams would be fined for violations.
One NFL owner, Christopher Johnson of the New York Jets, said the team would pay any fine levied on a player who refuses to stand during the national anthem.
“I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players,” Johnson told Newsday. “Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest.”
Kaepernick, meanwhile, has been unable to get an NFL job.
Free agents Kaepernick and Eric Reid are suing the NFL, saying league owners colluded to keep them unsigned as retaliation for their protests.