Patriots

Trump says NFL should fire players who kneel during anthem

trump_1920_uswo17_d3.jpg

Trump says NFL should fire players who kneel during anthem

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — President Donald Trump says National Football League owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. And he’s encouraging spectators to walk out in protest.

In an extended riff during a freewheeling rally speech in Alabama Friday night, Trump also bemoaned that football games have become less violent.

“They’re ruining the game,” he complained.

Several athletes, including NFL players, have refused to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest of the treatment of blacks by police.

Trump says those players are disrespecting the flag and deserve to lose their jobs.

“That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” he said, encouraging owners to act.

“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.

Trump also predicted that any owner who went through with his encouragement would become “the most popular person in this country” — at least for a week.

Trump, who was in Alabama campaigning for Sen. Luther Strange, also blamed a decline in NFL ratings on the nation’s interest in “yours truly” as well as what he described as a decline in violence in the game.

He said players are being thrown out for aggressive tackles, and it’s “not the same game.”

The NFL has made several efforts to reduce violence in the sport, particularly hits that may cause damage to the head. A July report on 202 former football players found evidence of a debilitating brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them. The league has agreed to pay $1 billion to retired players who claimed it misled them about the concussion dangers of playing football.

During his campaign, Trump often expressed nostalgia for the “old days” — claiming, for example, that protesters at his rallies would have been carried out on stretchers back then. He recently suggested police officers should be rougher with criminals and shouldn’t protect their heads when pushing them into quad cars.

It’s also not the first time he’s raised the kneeling issue. Earlier this year he took credit for the fact that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the trend of kneeling during the anthem, hadn’t been signed by an NFL team.

Trump said the protest was the top reason NFL viewership had waned this season.

“You know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem,” he said.

Trump encouraged his supporters to pick up and leave the stadium next time they spot a player failing to stand.

“I guarantee things will stop,” he said.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Must-read recap: Patriots lose to Steelers in another road stinker

cp-spark-patriots-steelers-must-read-recap-121618.jpg
NBC Sports Boston illustration

Must-read recap: Patriots lose to Steelers in another road stinker

Remember Titus Adams? Terdell Sands? Kendall Simmons? Isaiah Stanback? Well, they all have something in common with the current members of the Patriots: They were members of the last New England team -- the 2009 bunch that Bill Belichick couldn't "get to play the way I need them to play" -- that lost five games in a season. And these Pats still have two more chances to lose even more (though home games against the Bills and Jets don't ring the alarm meter). 

The Patriots stunk on the road again, lost to the Steelers via a one-touchdown performance and -- as noted -- are now a five-loss team for the first time since 2009. They're also now out of the No. 2 spot in the AFC. 

How the run defense absolutely stunk. The Steelers, who were without James Conner, ran early and often. Rookie fifth-round pick Jaylen Samuels went for well over 100 yards. 

How Tom Brady lost his damn mind in a big spot for the second week in a row. After taking a sack in the red zone at the end of the half last week with no timeouts, Brady threw a pick under pressure on second down in the red zone where he could have easily thrown the ball away. 

No. Chris Boswell missed a 32-yarder in the third quarter, though.

-

Not the best day for Brown. A holding call negated a 25-yard Michel run in the second quarter and a false start in the fourth was part of the mess that led to the Pats being so far back on second-and-goal when Brady threw that pick. 

Jonathan Jones got hosed on a deep DPI call along the sidelines on Pittsburgh's third drive despite barely making contact. The Steelers scored on the next play.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE