Trump: Keeping NFL teams in locker room during anthem 'almost as bad as kneeling'

U.S. President Donald Trump arrive for a family photo during the ASEAN-U.S. 40th Anniversary commemorative Summit in Manila, Philippines, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (Manan Vatsyayana/Pool Photo via AP)

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - President Donald Trump says keeping NFL teams in their locker rooms during the pre-game playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" would be "almost as bad as kneeling!"

He indicated in an early morning tweet Wednesday that the recent wave of football players taking a knee during the national anthem is "killing" the league.

The trend was launched during the 2016 preseason when Colin Kaepernick, then a San Francisco 49ers quarterback, knelt during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

Kaepernick's actions were met with a blend of praise and condemnation. The president has been among his most vocal critics, frequently slamming Kaepernick, other players who refuse to stand for the anthem, and NFL leadership.

He said in an Oct. 23 tweet, "Two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem, showing total disrespect to our Flag & Country. No leadership in NFL!"

Trump's denunciation of NFL protesters has done little to quiet them, particularly in September when he declared any such "son of a b****" should be fired for disrespecting the American flag.

As recently as Monday, the president said Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch should be suspended for kneeling.

In his Wednesday tweet, Trump claimed the NFL is considering having its teams remain in their locker rooms during the anthem.

Citing "several people familiar with the league's inner workings," The Washington Post on Tuesday reported some NFL owners believe such a policy may take effect if protests continue through the end of the season. The Post said the NFL declined to comment.

Having coaches and players absent from the sidelines during "The Star-Spangled Banner" wouldn't be a novelty -- it was standard practice until 2009. According to The Washington Post, current rules require players to be on the sidelines for the national anthem, but not to stand.

Trump said in a Sept. 26 tweet: "The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can't kneel during our National Anthem!"

The president's Nov. 22 tweet also targeted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: "When will the highly paid Commissioner finally get tough and smart?"

In August, Goodell said, "The national anthem is a special moment to me. It's a point of pride. But we also have to understand the other side, that people do have rights and we want to respect those," The Associated Press reported.

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