WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Donald Trump says NFL team owners are “afraid of their players.” And he’s still calling for action against those who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.
Trump says he began criticizing the players because he has “so many friends that are owners.” He adds: “I think they are afraid of their players, if you want to know the truth, and I think it’s disgraceful.”
The president spoke in an interview that aired Thursday on “Fox and Friends.” He says “most people agree” with him.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart called the president’s statements “inaccurate.”
“I believe there was a statement our owners are afraid of our players and owners requested intervention by political leaders to kick this off,” Lockhart said. “Those statements are not accurate.”
Trump has spent days attacking players who kneel during the anthem. He insists the NFL should require players to stand. Responding to Trump, hundreds more players have been sitting, kneeling, locking arms or remaining in locker rooms.
“The owners are clearly united in a sense that the attacks on the game, on the NFL, on the players were unfair and unfounded, and that there was unity among the group,” Lockhart said, noting that about two-thirds of the 32 team owners were at league headquarters this week for committee meetings.
“I think there was also a sentiment … that the issues are being obscured and distorted by people with political agendas. I think they made it clear they support our players, but also support our country, the national anthem, the flag — all of the things some have suggested we don’t.”
On Wednesday, Trump predicted that if NFL players don’t start standing for the national anthem, the league will suffer financially.
“You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, our flag, our country,” Trump told reporters. “In my opinion, the NFL has to change. Or you know what’s going to happen. Their business is going to go to hell.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)