Ahead of Sunday’s NFL games, Trump renews his call for players to stand during anthem

President Trump talks with reporters Friday as he leaves the White House for his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

On the eve of another Sunday of professional football, President Trump once again stoked the controversy over players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality, proclaiming on Twitter that he wants them to stand.

“Very important that NFL players STAND tomorrow, and always, for the playing of our National Anthem,” the president said Saturday night. “Respect our Flag and our Country!”

With the tweet, Trump raised the issue for a second straight weekend. Last Sunday, hundreds of players locked arms, some taking a knee, while some teams stayed in the locker room, all in response to Trump’s posture on the issue.

At a political rally two days before, he said owners should fire players who don’t stand and called such players a “son of a b‑‑‑‑,” angering many in the league.

Later Saturday night, Trump took to Twitter again, sending out a video of the national anthem being performed at a hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues. The video depicts a full arena in St. Louis, where the anthem is sung by a retired military veteran and the crowd joins in.

The Chicago Tribune identified the game as having taken place Nov. 9, the night after Trump’s election win over Hillary Clinton.

“19,000 RESPECTING our National Anthem!” Trump tweeted.

Trump, who is spending another weekend at his private golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., faced widespread criticism for focusing so heavily on the issue in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico days before. Aides have said Trump can focus on more than one issue at a time.

Before Saturday, Trump had dialed back the frequency of his comments about the NFL, although he had not backed away from the fight. During a TV interview broadcast Thursday, he said NFL owners are “afraid of their players” and “in a box” on the issue.

Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started the form of protest last year to draw attention to police killings of unarmed black people and the 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 United States and its flag.

Cindy Boren contributed to this report.

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