President Donald Trump has praised NASCAR team owners for signaling that they would fire drivers who knelt during the national anthem. The president ignited national controversy when he called for athletes who had snubbed the anthem in protest of police brutality against people of color to be fired.
On Sept. 25, Trump took to social media to applaud NASCAR for largely siding with his stance on kneeling during the national anthem.
"So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans," Trump tweeted out. "The won't put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag - they said it loud and clear!"
The president added: "Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total). ... The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!"
On Sept. 22, Trump entered the national debate over kneeling during the national anthem when he asserted during an Alabama rally that athletes who protested the American flag should be fired by their teams, The New York Times reported.
"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,'" Trump told the audience. "Out. He's fired! He's fired!"
The president's comments, including his announcement that he would not welcome the Golden State Warriors to the White House, swiftly drew condemnation from prominent athletes such as NBA star LeBron James.
On Sept. 24, hundreds of NFL players knelt on the field or remained in their team locker rooms during the national anthem. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell voiced solidarity with the protesting players, according to Sports Illustrated.
Meanwhile, several NASCAR team owners asserted that they would terminate any employees who protested during the national anthem, WXIA reports.
"Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over," said team owner Richard Childress. "I told them anyone who works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people have gave their lives for it. This is America."
"Anybody that doesn't stand up for that ought to be out of the country," said team owner Richard Petty. "If they don't appreciate where they're at ... what got them where they're at? The United States."
Team owner Chip Ganassi simply stated that he liked "Mike Tomlin's answer."
On Sept. 24, coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers stood on the field during the national anthem as all but one of his players remained in their locker room in protest.
"Many of them felt like something needed to be done ... They were not going to be disrespectful in the anthem so they chose not to participate, but at the same time many of them were not going to accept the words of the president," Tomlin said after the game, according to Fox News.
Retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. took to social media to tweet out a quote by former President John F. Kennedy, signaling that he supported athletes' right to protest.
"All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests," Earnhardt Jr. tweeted. "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
Sources: Dale Earnhardt Jr/Twitter, Donald J. Trump/Twitter (2, 3), Fox News, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, WXIA / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr / Embedded Image: Alan Kotok/Flickr, Larry McTighe/Wikimedia Commons