In the days after President Donald Trump opened a national debate about the right of NFL players to protest during the national anthem, critics have said the president ignored the deaths of four American service members who were killed in Africa.
The president first broached the anthem issue during a rally in September, when he called for NFL team owners to fire players who protested during the national anthem, according to the BBC. One of the first and most prominent protesters was then-San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick.
"I am not going to strand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," said Kaepernick. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way."
Trump later said his criticism wasn't related to race.
"The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race," wrote the president on Twitter on Sept. 25. "It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!"
The issue came to a head as Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Indiana to attend an NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Indianapolis Colts, but left after some players reportedly took a knee during the playing of the national anthem.
"I left today's Colts game because [the president] and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem," wrote the vice president in a statement on Twitter.
Trump backed him up, tweeting, "I asked [Pence] to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and [Second Lady Karen Pence]."
Critics of Trump argued that the president's focus on the NFL had taken attention away from the fact that four service members were killed in an ambush in Niger days earlier, reportedly by a jihadist group, according to Inquisitr.
The site ShareBlue pointed out that since the deadly ambush, Trump had put out tweets about "unfunny" late-night comedians and the "fake news" that reports on him, but hadn't touched on the dead service members, reports Inquisitr.
Salon also pointed out that the administration was "curiously mum" on the subject of the deadly ambush, referring to the situation as "Trump's Benghazi."
The attack led to the deaths of Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, as well as another soldier, a mechanic, who was not identified, according to The New York Times. Two other soldiers were also injured in the operation.
As of Oct. 12, the president has still not discussed the soldiers' deaths on his Twitter account or released an official statement.