President Donald Trump criticized the NFL and players who don’t stand for the American flag on Friday at rally for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b---- off the field right now,’” Trump said. “‘He is fired.’”
Many on social media viewed this as a thinly veiled shot at former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who protested racial issues in the U.S. in 2016 by remaining seated or kneeling during the national anthem.
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Trump also condemned the NFL for “ruining the game” by removing players who “get hit too hard.” Some have viewed that as a reference to long-term injuries some players in the NFL have sustained, and recent studies on degenerative brain disease those injuries can lead to.
Trump supporters in the crowd cheered at his suggestion that the NFL fire players who don’t kneel during the anthem. Buzzfeed News interviewed several attendees afterwards to gauge their reaction.
“I support that,” Trump supporter Dee Reed told BuzzFeed News at the rally. “I think they should, I think there ought to be repercussions for that.”
Dewayne McDougal also attended the rally, and told BuzzFeed he agreed with Trump’s idea to fire players who he says are disrespecting the flag.
“A lot of men died for our flag,” McDougal said. “And when you kneel for the flag, that’s disrespectful. If I owned a football team, they kneeled, they would be gone. There wouldn’t be no doubt. And there wouldn’t be no union to stop me.”