In response to the furor over players kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice ― not to mention the president calling for kneelers to be fired ― the league announced a new policy in May that requires players on the field to stand at attention for “The Star-Spangled Banner” but allows them to remain in the locker room if they choose. The league can fine teams whose players defy the edict while teams reserve the right to punish or fine their own personnel.
But at a rally Wednesday in Great Falls, Montana, the president blasted the policy as a “stupid thing.”
“Hey, how about the NFL. Look I don’t want to cause controversy. … I don’t want to cause controversy,” Trump said, according to the New York Post. “They passed this stupid thing. You don’t have to do this anymore if you don’t respect the flag or if you don’t like the country or whatever it is, just go into the locker room.”
“I think in many respects that’s worse. Isn’t that worse than not standing? You know? I think that’s worse. You know what? It doesn’t play. It doesn’t play. I actually think in many ways it’s worse.”
Players were previously required to be on the field for the anthem and encouraged to stand.
Trump also ripped NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in his Montana remarks.
“This commissioner, where does this guy come from, I have no idea,” Trump said, according to NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk. The president complained that despite Goodell’s multimillion-dollar annual contract, league ratings were still down.
In addition to Trump’s refrain of blaming the protests for declining TV ratings, the president said viewership fell because fans preferred to spend their time watching politics and the president.
“But they’re [NFL ratings] also down because people find politics — in other words, hitting Trump, incorrectly, but hitting Trump — they find that to be much tougher, meaner, and more interesting than watching a football game.”