Ben Carson, former Presidential candidate and the lone African-American leading a cabinet agency in the Trump Administration, says he will “work with” President Trump to better understand why professional athletes kneel in protest during the national anthem.
Trump was famously critical of then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling to protest police brutality against minority communities in the United States in 2016.
Carson, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary, spoke to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday and insisted President Trump could be convinced to soften his stance against kneeling protests.
“Well, I don’t think he has manifested as much animosity in that region lately,” Carson told Hewitt. “And I think we just continue to work with him. He’ll get there.”
In a tweet on Sunday, Trump said he would not watch the NFL and indicated that held for United States men’s and women’s soccer games, too, if those players decided to kneel during the anthem.
The United States Soccer Federation board on June 10 rescinded a 2017 rule that players had to stand for the national anthem. That rule was adopted when women’s star Megan Rapinoe knelt in solidarity with Kaepernick’s cause in 2016.
Rapinoe was one of the first white athletes to kneel during the national anthem in September, 2016 when she did so during a National Women’s Soccer League game and again that month before a United States’ exhibition match against Thailand.
Trump has sparred with Rapinoe directly on Twitter in the past, especially during Team USA’s championship performance at the World Cup in France last summer. Rapinoe had made clear in interviews during the tournament she would not be visiting the White House if the United States won and was invited.
Just last week, Redskins running back Adrian Peterson, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien all said they would kneel to protest police brutality when NFL games return this fall.
"I think the important thing is if they are going to kneel during the national anthem that they make sure that people understand why they’re kneeling,” Carson told Hewitt on Monday. “A lot of people are under the impression that they’re kneeling because they don’t respect our national anthem or they don’t respect the flag or what it stands for. And in fact, I don’t think that’s the reason that most of them are kneeling. I think most of them are kneeling because they want to protest some brutality in the police forces. They need to make that very clear. And of course, now that that has been brought to national attention, I’m not sure if it needs to continue.”