President Donald Trump slammed the NFL's rule changes that were implemented to reduce head injuries and called on team owners to fire players who kneel during the national anthem as an act of protest.
Speaking at a rally in Huntsville, Ala., Friday night to campaign for Sen. Luther Strange, Trump said that attendees of NFL games should walk out of the stadium if a player opts to kneel during the anthem. NFL players have been responding to Trump on Twitter.
The NFL has been mired in controversy since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the kneeling to protest police brutality against black people. Several other athletes, including a number of NFL players, have followed suit. Kaepernick has not been signed to any NFL teams since his contract with the 49ers expired at the end of last season.
Read Trump's remarks at Friday night's rally below:
Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!" You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, "That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired." And that owner, they don’t know it. They don't know it. They'll be the most popular person, for a week. They'll be the most popular person in this country.
When the NFL ratings are down massively, massively. The NFL ratings are down massively. Now the number one reason happens to be they like watching what's happening... with yours truly. They like what's happening. Because you know today if you hit too hard—15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They had that last week. I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really beautiful tackle. Boom, 15 yards! The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she's so proud of him. They're ruining the game! They're ruining the game. That's what they want to do. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.
But you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium, I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.