President Donald Trump has called on the NFL to institute a rule that would prohibit football players from kneeling during the national anthem. The president has repeatedly used his social media platform to blast athletes who protest during the U.S. national anthem that precedes each game to draw attention to police brutality.
On Sept. 26, Trump took to Twitter to urge the NFL to make it mandatory for athletes to stand during the national anthem. The president had tweeted about protests during football games 21 times in the span of three days, Yahoo News reports.
"The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations," Trump tweeted out. "The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can't kneel during our National Anthem!"
Trump also drew attention to the Dallas Cowboys' decision to kneel in unison before the national anthem kickstarted a game on Sept. 25.
"The booing at the NFL football game last night, when the entire Dallas team dropped to its knees, was loudest I have ever heard," the president tweeted out. "Great anger."
In August 2016, former quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers sparked a national debate when he began to sit during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
"To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way," Kaepernick told NFL Media. "There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
On Sept. 25, Trump stirred controversy when he called for NFL players who protested during the national anthem to be fired.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: 'Get that son of a b***h off the field right now! Out! He's fired! He's fired!'" Trump said during a rally in Huntsville, Alabama.
Entire NFL teams protested during the national anthem in response to the president's comments. Following the Alabama rally, the Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers remained in their locker rooms as the anthem played. Several other teams locked their arms together or knelt in solidarity with protesters against police brutality, The New York Times reports.
On Sept. 25, Trump reportedly told dinner guests at the White House that he believed his repeated criticisms of the NFL protests had "caught on."
"It's really caught on," Trump told conservative groups leaders, according to CNN. "It's really caught on. I said what millions of Americans were thinking."
"You could really tell [Trump] was satisfied," said one attendee who requested anonymity.
A senior Trump administration official who requested anonymity asserted that the president had sought to reconnect with his base supporters by criticizing the NFL protests.
"He knows it'll get people stirred up and talking about it," the administration official told Politico.
Meanwhile, Trump's critics said that it was inappropriate for a president to weigh in so forcefully on the NFL debate. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted during an interview that Trump's criticisms of the protests had racial overtones.
"I think it's deeply troubling that the president would be attacking black athletes for expressing their opinions peacefully," Clinton told SiriusXM.