President Donald Trump on Friday renewed his attacks on NFL players pushing for criminal justice and other social reforms as U.S. media reported that a number of players protested during the league’s preseason opening late on Thursday.
The National Football League has struggled with how to address the issue of protesting players during the playing of the U.S. national anthem, seeking to react to Trump’s drumbeat of attacks over the past year while managing relations with its players and maintaining its fans.
As games opened on Thursday, several players knelt, refused to stand on the field or raised fists in protest, according to media reports.
For the past few seasons, some NFL players have sought to call attention to the mistreatment of minorities by U.S. law enforcement by taking a knee during the anthem before games begin. Trump and others have blasted the gesture as a sign of disrespect to the U.S. flag and the military, launching a political fight.
League owners last month suspended a policy they had sought to put in place this season that would have required players to stand for the anthem, after the player’s union objected.
Trump, who has urged the NFL to suspend protesting players, again called on the league to act and said players should find another way to speak out.
“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.....Be happy, be cool!” he tweeted early on Friday.
Representatives for the NFL and the NFL Players Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reporting by Makini Brice and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum