U.S. President Donald Trump has praised NASCAR team owners for saying they would not condone protesting during the playing of the national anthem after NFL players “took a knee” during the playing of the The Star-Spangled Banner in protest against racism and police brutality.
In a series of tweets Monday, Trump praised the car-racing league for not protesting during the national anthem ahead of a race at New Hampshire Motorspeedway.
“So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag – they said it loud and clear!” Trump tweeted.
His comment comes after about 200 football players and team staff either sat, kneeled, raised a fist or did not take to the field during the national anthem in a show of solidarity against Trump’s criticisms of the year-long movement protesting against police treatment of minorities, which began with former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s silent sideline protest.
A handful of NFL players had been continuing Kaepernick’s protest this season, but that ballooned Sunday following Trump’s two-day weekend rant. It began with the president calling for NFL protesters to be fired and continued Saturday when he rescinded a White House invitation for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors over star Stephen Curry’s criticism.
The president’s delving into the NFL protests brought new attention and angered many players who took one insult as a personal attack on their mothers.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,”‘ Trump said to loud applause Friday night at a rally in Huntsville, Ala.
On Sunday, several NASCAR owners and executives said they wouldn’t want anyone in their organizations to protest.
Richard Childress, who was Dale Earnhardt’s long-time team owner, told the Associated Press that protesting will “get you a ride on a Greyhound bus.”
Trump said Sunday his criticism “has nothing to do with race.”
“This has to do with respect for our country,” Trump told reporters.
The president reiterated his comment again Monday saying “the issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race.”
“Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total). These are fans who demand respect for our Flag!” Trump tweeted.
“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!” the president said.
The president followed up again on Twitter, with his own hashtag “#StandForOurAnthem.”
In a statement Monday afternoon, NASCAR highlighted the importance of the national anthem and the “right to peacefully express one’s opinion.”
“Sports are a unifying influence in our society, bringing people of differing backgrounds and beliefs together,” the car-racing league said. “Our respect for the national anthem has always been a hallmark of our pre-race events. Thanks to the sacrifices of many, we live in a country of unparalleled freedoms and countless liberties, including the right to peacefully express one’s opinion.”
-with files from the Associated Press