HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (CBS/AP) — President Donald Trump has some advice for National Football League owners: Fire players who kneel during the national anthem. He’s also encouraging fans to walk out in protest.

Related: Patriots’ Devin McCourty Fires Back After President Trump’s Anthem Comments

And the president is bemoaning what he describes as a decline in violence in the sport.

“They’re ruining the game,” he said during a political rally in Alabama on Friday night that veered beyond politics.

Several athletes, including a handful of NFL players, have refused to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest of the treatment of blacks by police. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the trend last year when he played for the San Francisco 49ers, hasn’t been signed by an NFL team for this season.

Though he did not mention President Trump by name, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the comments in a Saturday statement.

The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.

In a statement of his own on Saturday, recently reelected NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith reacted to Trump’s comments, saying “We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports.”

Trump, who once owned the New Jersey Generals of the U.S. Football League, says those players are disrespecting the American 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,” Trump 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.

Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2016. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Trump also predicted that any owner who followed the presidential 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 drop in NFL ratings on the nation’s interest in “yours truly” as well as what he contended was a decline in violence in the game.

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

Over the past several seasons, the NFL and college football have increased penalties and enforcement for illegal hits to the head and for hitting defenseless players. 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 squad cars.

It’s also not the first time he’s raised the kneeling issue. Earlier this year he took credit for the fact that Kaepernick hadn’t been signed.

Television ratings for the NFL have been slipping since the beginning of the 2016 season. The league and observers have blamed a combination of factors, including competing coverage of last year’s presidential election, more viewers dropping cable television, fans’ discomfort with the reports of head trauma and the anthem protests.

Ratings have been down even more in the early 2017 season, though broadcasters and the league have blamed the hurricanes that hit Florida and Texas. Still, the NFL remains by far the most popular televised sport in the United States.

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

“You know what’s hurting the game?” he asked. “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.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (92)
  1. Mary Gudobba says:

    Those poor millionaires, I feel sorry for them.

  2. Leslie Green says:

    President Trump is 100% correct. To hell with the NFL… May their profits plummet to the point of bankruptcy.

  3. Once again Trump articulated what millions of Americans are thinking and wish would happen. I have not watched an NFL game in two years and have NO interest in returning and it is all for one reason. I am fed up with these overpaid thugs, many of who would be in jail, on the street selling drugs, robbing and collecting checks if not for sports and their BS protest.

  4. Zach Smith says:

    Let me get this straight, kneeling during the national anthem – not divisive. Asking that everyone respect the country and national anthem – divisive.

    1. Dreaded Parakeet says:

      Liberal logic. It’s an illness.

  5. TRUMP, everyday proves what an ass he is, this PRICK is deranged…..

    1. oljw00 says:

      Poor little Clifford. I see you are still working your way through e5 stages of grief. How sad.

    2. Clifford misplace your vagina hat? Have you tried Play-Doh or perhaps a therapy puppy?

    3. Clifford Elisary does not understand or possibly respect the values and laws that made this country great. The very values that allow NFL to become the business that it is. Those players are employees and should be held accountable. Fans do not go to game to express their political views, just the opposite.. Cliff.. we will MAGA with or without you!

    4. TRUMP makes your butt hurt, huh?

  6. Right on, President Trump!

    On the NFL, that is. You are entirely wrong to support Luther Strange the open borders globalist.

  7. Screw the NFL. My white privlidged ass has worked more than 40 year (and still going) and paying taxes for a fraction of what these guys earn. If they really want to make a statement, they should quit and go play in Canada. Take the cut in pay on principal. The privilige many blacks have lost is, because of Big Government handouts for illegitimacy, is having both a mother and father in their home and not knowing the love of a family unit. There are a lot more family things to do on the weekend then watching a stupid football game.

  8. Andy Rem says:

    Ok, the players have a right to protest, and we have a right to tune out. The President has a right to his opinion. I’m cool with all that.

    Which is why I stopped watching Pro Football, when the University players start protesting, I will stop watching college ball.

  9. Isn’t it ironic that Goodell thinks that someone complaining about a player disrespecting the Country is showing a lack of respect?

  10. Joe Swartz says:

    “NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith reacted to Trump’s comments, saying “We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports.”

    “We no longer can afford to stick to sports.”

    That’s your call, Mr.Smith. And WE can no longer stick to sports either now that it’s become political. Bad choice…

  11. Notice the lies and distorition that goes into a CBS report. ” protest of the treatment of blacks by police.” When was the last time you saw an NFL player go running down a dark alley on the south side of Chicago — America’s murder capital — in pursuit of an armed man?

  12. Joe Swartz says:

    Tie all NFL contracts directly to attendance and television revenue.

    Let the players feel the raft directly.

  13. If patriots simply stopped using these products, this would be solved instantly. Anheuser-Busch, Campbell’s Soup Company, Castrol, Courtyard Marriott, Dannon, Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Papa John’s, Pepsi and Quaker. Your’e welcome!

  14. Name one company in America where an employee can wear a full company uniform and protest against America on company time, thereby chasing off about 50% of the company’s customers. Name just one company that allows employees to do that. Just one.

    1. Okay, why don’t you name one company that forces their employees to stand at attention with their hands over their hearts while the Star-Spangled Banner is played before they can go to their work stations. Name one. Just one.

      1. “Okay, why don’t you name one company that forces their employees to stand at attention with their hands over their hearts while the Star-Spangled Banner is played before they can go to their work stations. Name one. Just one.”

        The New York Yankees.

        At EVERY game.

        Also during the seventh inning stretch.

        Next question flaming anti-american?

  15. But, but, but Roger Goodell said the players protesting brings unity to the culture. No?

  16. As a Patriots fan, I don’t have to worry about players disrespecting the flag, because they wouldn’t be Patriot players for long, no matter who they were. In Belichick and Trump we trust.

  17. Stu Pedasso says:

    With the NFL owners, it’s ALL about the money. I played both high school and college football and still enjoy watching the game, but I don’t even watch the NFL on TV anymore. There are plenty of good college games on and I refuse to support the NFL in ANY way until they curb those on the field Anti-American demonstrations.

  18. Dreaded Parakeet says:

    Rent your own stadium and play the anthem. Run around naked if you like. Just don’t do it when I go see the game.

  19. Good for Trump. Love how Goodell treats these overpaid sports stars as “heros” who take risks for a noble cause. Really? This is another overpaid industry where the professionals take risks FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT. Play the game and quit politicking. If you want to salute REAL HEROS – salute our police, fire, and military who actual make a difference in other people’s lives.

  20. If the media would just ignore the protests of the kneeling players, ignore Kapernick and the players who support him, the problem would go away. Just like the streakers thay were running out on the field. When the media stopped putting them on camera, they stopped their foolishness.

  21. Liberia still needs the BLM/NFL to build a stadium: and fill it. Goodnight NFL.

  22. Bob Johnson says:

    Facts of the matter are the players need to STAND to demonstrate their respect to the ideals of a country that has allowed them opportunities to live the lives they do, without conflating their social/political views on an issue with their love of country.

    We will always have prejudice, it’s inherent in the human mind and BLM’s condemnation of all Police or blaming all whites for presumed “privilege” are perfect examples of their own prejudices.

    We have come a long way from the America that employed slaves for labor. We have shed blood, changed laws, and set standards for the fair treatment of all people. However there will always be prejudices in the human spirit and we will always have to work hard to control it.

  23. Ray Phillips says:

    It takes so much “courage” to disrespect our country and all of those who have served and sacrificed… the same country that provided them with the opportunity to earn millions of dollars in the entertainment industry. If they truly cared about this issue they would leave the NFL and work within these communities to rebuild them physically and spiritually. I don’t find their actions entertaining… so I’m done with all things NFL.

  24. Ken Sparrow says:

    All you hear from the crooked media is Trump said ‘get that son of b*tch off the field right now! Out! He’s fired! He’s fired! They leave out the words before that “Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag, to say”. Sounds a lot different with these words preceding it put in. Then again this is what you will get from the democrat crooked media.

  25. Is paying your cable bill supporting the NFL? I’m forced to support the package.

  26. Here’s an idea – how about they start protesting the fact that 6% of the U.S.population (black males) commit over 50% of the violent crimes in this nation? Perhaps if they worked as hard at trying to change that cultural trend as they do crying over violently resistive criminals being shot by the cops trying to arrest them, they could make some way in changing society for the better.

  27. Joe Mellon says:

    Funny how they like to protest for being paid to play a game. Here’s how to really protest. When you’re handed your pay check, give it back.

  28. Amen to Trump! These knuckle dragging, ignorant uneducated in history, millionaire useful idiots should be fired. They can protest anywhere anytime on their own time but on company time you deserve to be fired!

  29. When you kneel in solidarity with cop killers to disrespect the United States and her flag, you’re dead to me.

  30. He is right on 2 counts. Yes it is freedom of speech, but if they want to protest they can do so on their own time. The NFL as their employer is not required to pay them to protest. 2. The fans should entirely boycott these Social Justice warriors. If they are so noble let’s see how they do without their paycheck.

  31. Thomas Hope says:

    Screw the NFL. Tired of the most coddled millionaires whining about the land of opportunity they live in being the problem. I’ll never watch another game.

  32. Trump only said what the rest of the respectful citizens were thinking.

  33. I side with President Trump. I won’t be watching NFL until further notice.

  34. If they hate this NATION, why don’t they leave the NATIONAL football league.?

  35. Sam Wright says:

    What really bugs me is that high school kids imitate these “heroes” while they should be emulating real successful people like Ben Carson.

    1. Goodell and all of his black players need to take a civics course until they pass it and accept it. Shut down the NFL until every last player gets an 85% or better on that test.

  36. Just make it a standard NFL rule in their multi-million dollar contracts, forfeiting their salary if they want to play activist on game day in the stadium.

    There are plenty of other rules and penalties for various antics such as excessive celebration after a score, or pretending to answer a cellphone at the goal post (forgot what player did that). There are rules against language and taunting, obscene gestures, etc., so why not this?

    They can do what they want any other time or day, but once inside the stadium on game day, it should be all about football.

    Or how about this? Instead of leaving, fans march out onto the field and prevent the game from starting? That wil get certainly get the NFL, the owners, the sponsers, etc attention. They will not have enough security to make some 20,000 people leave the field.

  37. You don’t have to walk out of an NFL game. That’s a lot of money and time wasted. Just don’t go period. These players don’t care about you. Hell, most of those bozos are fake playing anyway. Watch how many laugh when they drop a ball. They are really laughing at you.

  38. Chuck Yates says:

    Cut the cord and watch college football. I will not support trash taken a knee.

  39. Amy Amrap says:

    Throwing a ball far, running fast; real high IQ pursuits those! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

  40. Patriotism will sell more stadium seats than all the cute cheerleaders the NFL can muster.

    I don’t care how much it may hurt the team, it is going to hurt the team owner’s pocketbook if his or her players disrespect the flag or those who gave them the freedoms to protest.

  41. Mark Randall says:

    I think all the NFL players should go on strike. You know, just don’t show up for games or practices. That’ll show all those fat cats.

  42. My whole family is not watching the NFL. All females in the family are very happy about it.

  43. Bravo! Fire these spoiled brats who “kneel” on the backs of my colleagues who have died defending the flag and anthem.

  44. muneshadowe says:

    Dear NFL I have not watched a game for over a year now because of this. When you fire I will watch again. Until then forget it.

  45. Chuck Blinn says:

    And… they are disrespecting the other players, the fans in the stands, and the military people on the field. I know — resist, resist, resist! Why don’t you resist all that money they pay you for playing a game. Well done Mr. President. You are gaining new support every week.

  46. Trump is right. You hate America, leave. Football is a brain dead sport anyways.

  47. Steve Lewis says:

    POTUS is giving the NFL a wake up call.

  48. Jimmie Meeks says:

    I will be boycotting all sports that allow this kneeling during the Anthem. I will also be laughing as I see the empty stadiums. Us America loving individuals have more power than we realize , hell we are the ones doing all the work and paying all the bills. Let your money start speaking for your beliefs in everything you do!

  49. Lou Cubbage says:

    100% right. I have never been to a football game, never watch football on TV, and have no jersey, hat, or socks, with any team logo.

  50. Josh Bond says:

    The heck with it. I’m done with the NFL. Seeing grown millionaire men act as entitled children, disrespecting the very flag that offers them their unparalleled freedom and wealth. I can’t in good conscience tune in anymore and if the other sports follow suit, I’m done with them too.

  51. No more NFL for me. F these sorry overpaid crybabies.

  52. Well said, Mr. President! I’m done with the NFL. DirectV, Dish Network, you’re not profiting from my viewership any longer, not until every single player and commissioner and volunteer and official stands tall during the playing of the National Anthem and the displaying of our National Flag. Yes, that same flag men bled and died for on the beaches of Utah, Omaha, and Iwo Jima all those many decades ago.

    Those brave men did not do what they did so that Colin Kaepernick could kneel down and attack the brave men and women who wear the uniform, to protect and serve the citizens of these United States.

  53. Bravo, Mr. President! It’s about time someone took this nonsense to task.

  54. I spent a year in combat so that people with a lack of patriotism could kneel when ever they want.
    This is America we should respect it and be proud. If some people do not agree with us, they are the losers not us.

  55. Barry Jaeger says:

    It appears that “fans” aren’t even entering stadiums in droves anymore.
    Overpaid snowflake athletes complaining that the country is terrible, when the country is the people who used to be their fans… before they shot off their mouths.

  56. The NFL owners are learning who their fans are. The welfarers and crack dealers are not the ones buying those high-priced tickets.

  57. I cut my cable. TV has nothing I want to watch.

  58. FUNNY RANT “What’s wrong with this league” by America’s #1 NFL Picker

  59. Dreaded Parakeet says:

    So Colin is not getting a check and soon the active players will not get the checks either. I blame Goodell. He had a chance to jump on this from the start last year but apparently didn’t have the nerve to do it. This is a bad business model for the NFL. How does a 9 billion dollar industry allows this to happen. No politics in the game simply means you remain neutral. Be inclusive, not stupid. They should have taken a page from MJ. Now the lefty loonies have infested the NFL and the NBA by association thanks to the hated Lebron running his mouth. My interest in football is gone. I never thought it possible, but totally gone.

  60. Dreaded Parakeet says:

    Here’s an idea. 1. Don’t play the anthem at games. Of course, the players will lose their platform to stick it to the people. Maybe they will drop their pants 10 minutes into the first quarter as a form of protest. 2. They stay in the locker room until the anthem is finished because apparently, they get triggered and the babies need a safe space. Roger better get down with the program because the horse and buggy man is gone and society didn’t fall apart. His league is making an Azz of itself and people are re-discovering there is more to life than the NBA and the NFL. The winner in this is the NHL, NASCAR, and college football.

  61. Get down on both knees and bow before us you pathetic racist blacks.

  62. President Trump is right!

    Enough said.

  63. Jake Redmond says:

    Disgusted when anyone kneels for the national anthem — something people died for so these sorry jerks can make millions playing a silly game, and gives them the right to protest. How stupid. I am done with NFL.

  64. For once I completely agree with Trump on this. I am sick of these whiny, overpaid, privileged brats in sports. The one thing I might question is Trump’s assertion I should leave the game. The fact is, since the brats began protesting the national anthem I have made a point of it not to support the NFL at all. I don’t even watch the games on TV.

  65. Joey Smith says:

    Here is a list of the cr@ppy companies with cr@ppy products the NFL has on contract:
    Anheuser-Busch, Campbell’s Soup Company, Castrol, Courtyard Marriott, Dannon, Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Papa John’s, Pepsi, Quaker

  66. Kim A Kirk says:

    I keep hearing the far left say people fought and died for the right of these players to disrespect our flag. B.S., my family members fought for your right to respect the flag. If you don’t like it, find another country to call home. Good riddance. Thank you President Trump!

  67. Troy Dynes says:

    I thought the pajama boys that support this type of pseudo protests only watch the grass fairies play soccer.

  68. Hal Briggs says:

    I approve of President Trump’s message.

  69. Steve Barker says:

    The NFL should have stopped this while they had a chance. This will now spin out of control and everyone will feel compelled to pick a side.

  70. At what point do you think Goodell and all the others who are defending these Unamerican protests will see what is going on with their games? How much of a drop in attendance and TV watching will it take to get their attention? Time will tell. I know I’ve stopped watching professional football and spent a part of my Saturday watching Alabama and Navy Football. Who needs the disrespect of the NFL?

  71. George Soros’s BLM has got the African Americans exhibiting lapdog obedience to a real ‘Natzi’ collaborator from WW2. SAD