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Trump Calls for NFL Boycott in Continued Criticism of Anthem Protests

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said that NFL players who locked arms with other teammates showed “great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country.”

“Standing with locked arms is good. Kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings,” he tweeted on Sunday afternoon, after a number of teams made symbolic statements during the National Anthem after Trump attacked players for getting on one knee as a form of protest over racial injustice.

Earlier on Sunday, Trump called for an NFL boycott unless players “stop disrespecting our flag and country.”

In a series of tweets on Sunday morning, Trump wrote that if fans refuse to go to games until players stop the protests, “you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”

Trump also attacked the NFL, calling games “boring” and saying that “many stay away because they love our country.”

Trump began his attacks on professional sports on Friday, when he told a rally in Alabama, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: ‘Get that son of a b— off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!'”

Trump, who had been campaigning for Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), was referring to players who have kneeled during the National Anthem as a form of protest of racial injustice in the U.S.

In response, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called Trump’s remarks “divisive.”

In a rare statement on a political issue, Goodell said that “the NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game, and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

More teams also issued statements on Sunday. Robert Kraft, the chairman and CEO of the the New England Patriots, said that he was “deeply disappointed by the tone” of Trump’s comments on Friday.

“Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner they feel is most impactful,” he said.

Kraft supported Trump’s presidential bid, and visited the White House in April along with Coach Bill Belichick and other team members to celebrate their Super Bowl win. Quarterback Tom Brady did not attend, citing personal reasons.

On Saturday, the players’ union also criticized Trump’s call to NFL owners to boot players who kneel or sit during the national anthem.

“We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports,” DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, tweeted.

Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick was among the first to protest the national anthem. “#Kaepernick we riding with you bro,” former NFL player Reggie Bush tweeted.

Trump is also at war with another sports league: The NBA. This year’s NBA champs, the Golden State Warriors, annouced on Saturday that they will officially skip the traditional White House visit following Trump’s criticism of star player Steph Curry.

“President Trump has made it clear we’re not invited,” the team said in a statement.

Trump slammed Curry earlier in the day over his remarks that he didn’t want to visit the White House amid growing racial tension. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Chris Paul were among the NBA stars who came to his defense.

Later on Sunday, Trump tweeted that the Pittsburgh Penguins would visit the White House to celebrate their Stanley Cup victory.

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