President Donald Trump has doubled down on his criticism of the NFL in an interview for Fox & Friends, one of his favorite shows if the President's tweets are any gauge.
In the interview, a transcript of which was provided by Fox News, the President said the NFL "cannot disrespect our flag or our national anthem. And they can't have people sitting down or kneeling."
Some team owners have joined in the protests, aimed at police shootings of unarmed black men, by standing with their players, but the President has suggested that so long as they weren't kneeling or sitting down with their players, it was OK.
But Trump called the player protests terrible and said the NFL could stop it. "[T]hey have rules for everything. You can't dance in the end zone. You can't wear the pink socks, relative to breast cancer, which is one of the places -- they have rules for everything. Why aren't they honoring this country by enforcing a rule that's been in existence for a long time?" he told interviewer Pete Hegseth.
The NFL has guidance in its operations manual, cited on various social media, about how players should comport themselves during the anthem, which does not include sitting or kneeling. But KPNX TV Phoenix pointed out in the story that the same manual also says the flags should never be carried horizontally, which would mean the NFL is itself violating that when they unfurl those massive flags on the field to honor the troops.
The NFL Players Association, the union that represents the players, has said the protests are protected speech and players should not have a job that forces them to surrender their rights.
"The peaceful demonstrations by some of our players have generated a wide array of responses. Those opinions are protected speech and a freedom that has been paid for by the sacrifice of men and women throughout history," the NFLPA said in a statement. "This expression of speech has generated thoughtful discussions in our locker rooms and in board rooms. However, the line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just 'shut up and play.'"