President Donald Trump continued his criticism of NFL players who protested during the national anthem at Thursday night’s preseason games, writing on Twitter that players are angry about “something that most of them are unable to define.”
“The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem,” Trump wrote. “Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their 'outrage' at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love.”
Several players around the league either took a knee, raised a fist or remained in the locker room during the anthem prior to the games. At Thursday night’s Giants-Browns game, all players stood on the sidelines for the anthem.
The players have said they are protesting to draw attention to social injustice in America. The protests began in 2016 when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat for, and then took a knee during the anthem.
Trump had said previously that he understood the reasons for the protests.
“I am going to ask all of those people to recommend to me -- because that's what they're protesting -- people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system," Trump told reporters in June. “And I understand that. And I'm going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated -- friends of theirs or people that they know about - and I'm going to take a look at those applications. And if I find, and my committee finds that they are unfairly treated, then we will pardon them or at least let them out.”
Trump tweeted Friday that he believes players who don’t stand for the anthem should be punished.
“Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest,” he wrote. “Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!”
The NFL said in a statement Friday it won’t punish players who protested during the anthem.
“The NFL has been engaged in constructive discussions with the NFL Players Association regarding the anthem and issues of equality and social justice that are of concern to many Americans,” the statement said. "While those discussions continue, the NFL has agreed to delay implementing or enforcing any club work rules that could result in players being disciplined for their conduct during the performance of the anthem.
"Meanwhile, there has been no change in the NFL’s policy regarding the national anthem. The anthem will continue to be played before every game, and all player and non-player personnel on the field at that time are expected to stand during the presentation of the flag and performance of the anthem. Personnel who do not wish to do so can choose to remain in the locker room."
The league and the NFLPA agreed last month to further discuss anthem policy. In May, the owners had voted overwhelmingly to require players to stand or else face potential fines. The teams would also be fined any players didn’t stand. Under the policy announced in May, players could remain in the locker room without being fined.
Trump immediately criticized the policy that it was even worse for players to remain in the locker room during the anthem than protest while on the field.