President Donald Trump said that the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick should get a shot at another job in the NFL if he was qualified, his latest attempt to meddle in the business of the country’s biggest sports league.
“I would love to see him get another shot, but obviously he has to be able to play well,” Trump said Wednesday in an interview with the Sinclair Broadcast Group. “If he can’t play well, I think it would be very unfair.”
The president has repeatedly criticized Kaepernick and other players who knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African-American people and other forms of social injustice. In 2017, Trump urged NFL owners to fire any players who protested during the national anthem.
In his interview Wednesday, he repeated that he remained opposed to kneeling during the anthem. He said this week he would not watch NFL games if players continued to protest.
Kaepernick, who during the 2016 season became the first player to kneel, has not played in more than three years. Last year, he and a former teammate, Eric Reid, received a multimillion-dollar payment from the NFL after Kaepernick accused the league of blackballing him because of his protests, which divided owners, fans and politicians.
Trump and other critics said Kaepernick and other players were disrespecting the flag by kneeling during the national anthem, while the players have insisted they were only trying to raise awareness of an important social issue.
This month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized for not listening to players who protested, though he did not name Kaepernick. This week, he said that he would encourage and support any team that offered Kaepernick a tryout.
Bowing to pressure from the president, the NFL owners in 2018 strengthened a policy that would require all players to stand for the anthem while on the field, though they were also free to remain in the locker room during pregame ceremonies.
Not long after, the NFL Players Association filed a grievance accusing the league of acting unilaterally. Since then the league has never enforced the policy.
While Trump agrees with Goodell that Kaepernick, 32, should get another chance to play in the NFL, the president made clear he continued to oppose players who protest during the anthem.
“There are plenty of things you can protest,” Trump told Sinclair. “I don’t want to see people kneel for the national anthem, for the American flag. You stand, be proud, put your hand on your heart, salute if you’d like to do that. But you have to show respect.”
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