Trump says NFL owners 'afraid of their players,' calls it 'disgraceful'

Giants Eagles Football
Philadelphia Eagles players and owners Jeffrey Lurie stand for the national anthem before an NFL football game against the New York Giants on Sunday. Malcolm Jenkins is seen raising his fist next to Lurie.

President Trump said in an interview broadcast Thursday that NFL owners are “afraid of their players,” his latest provocative comments in a crusade against those who take a knee during the national anthem.

Trump urged the football league to adopt and enforce a rule that requires players to stand during the anthem He said he has talked in recent days to several team owners, who he said are “in a box” on the issue.

“I think they’re afraid of their players, if you want to know the truth, and I think it’s disgraceful,” Trump said in an interview broadcast of Fox News’s Fox & Friends. “They’ve got to be tough, and they’ve got to be smart.”

The interview was recorded Wednesday in Indianapolis prior to Trump’s speech on a Republican-crafted tax plan.

Trump stoked a national controversy Friday when he criticized NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, using a profane term to describe them. He has continued to highlight the issue in tweets and public comments every day since.

Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started the form of protest last year as a means to draw attention to police killings of unarmed black people and oppression of minorities.

Most of the players who have knelt are African American. Trump has said his comments have nothing to do with race but are about respecting the country and the flag.

On Sunday, the Eagles and other teams across the NFL locked arms, with some kneeling and some staying in their locker rooms, in displays of unity aimed at Trump’s comments. Several team owners participated in the gestures, which continued Monday at a game in Phoenix.