AFP, The Daily Mail, September 25, 2017
US President Donald Trump denied stoking racial tensions Monday, insisting his charged comments that prompted a wave of symbolic protests by NFL players were about patriotism.
After his verbal attacks on black athletes led players across the country to kneel in solidarity during the US national anthem at games over the weekend, the besieged US president played defense on Twitter.
Trump had sparked the furor by describing NFL players who chose to take a knee through renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as “sons of bitches” who should be fired.
Players throughout America’s most popular sport took a defiant stance, kneeling, linking arms or raising clenched fists during the anthem.
The US leader doubled down on those remarks by urging fans to boycott the NFL as long as the protests continued.
Keeping the issue alive for a fourth day, Trump on Monday insisted “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!”
More than 150 players could be seen kneeling or sitting in the 14 games that took place Sunday, easily the largest such demonstration since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first began protesting in 2016.
One of the biggest protests took place in the nation’s capital, where almost the entire lineup of the Oakland Raiders team sat on their bench ahead of their game with the Washington Redskins.
Trump — who faces low poll numbers and is struggling to enact his agenda — on Monday tried to single out the NFL players who protested.
“Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total). These are fans who demand respect for our Flag!” he tweeted.