President Donald Trump comes again under fire after his criticism of NFL players.
On September 22, President Trump said the NFL should fire players who protest during the US anthem.
High-profile football players as well as basketball star LeBron James openly criticized President Trump in response.
One NFL team owner said Donald Trump’s comments were “offensive” but the president has gone on to repeat his criticism.
At a rally on September 22, President Trump said NFL players who protested during the playing of the national anthem should be fired by their team – referencing a controversial string of protests over race relations started by player Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement saying “divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect”.
Donald Trump, however, doubled down on his comments in a tweet: “Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!”
The NFL Players’ Association said President Trump had crossed a line by effectively telling players to just “shut up and play”.
Association president Eric Winston said President Trump’s comments were “a slap in the face to the civil rights heroes of the past and present”.
On September 23, the Oakland Athletics’ Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel in protest during the national anthem, mimicking the gesture of protest started by Colin Kaepernick.
Jed York, CEO of the San Francisco 49ers – Kaepernick’s former team – said he would continue to support his players.
“The callous and offensive comments made by the President are contradictory to what this great country stands for,” Jed York said in a statement.
There has been no comment from many teams, including New York Jets owner Woody Johnson – a wealthy businessman and Trump campaign donor who was appointed as his ambassador to the UK.
On September 23, President Trump withdrew an invitation to the White House to basketball champions the Golden State Warriors after one player, Stephen Curry, said he did not want to attend.
Stephen Curry – NBA’s most valuable player in 2015 – said he wanted to show that he and other players did not stand for “the things that he’s said and the things that he hasn’t said in the right times”.
President Trump tweeted afterwards: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.
“Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
In response, triple NBA champion LeBron James, one of the sport’s foremost stars, labeled President Trump a “bum”.
He said: “U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”
Retired star Kobe Bryant also tweeted his support: “A #POTUS whose name alone creates division and anger. Whose words inspire dissension and hatred can’t possibly <<Make America Great Again>>.”