Trump calls on NFL owners to fire players who kneel during anthem.

Trump Calls on NFL Owners to Fire Players Who Kneel During Anthem

Trump Calls on NFL Owners to Fire Players Who Kneel During Anthem

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Sept. 23 2017 9:37 AM

Trump Calls on NFL Owners to Fire Players Who Kneel During Anthem

USPOLITICSTRUMP
President Donald Trump speaks during rally for Alabama state Republican Senator Luther Strange at the Von Braun Civic Center September 22, 2017 in Huntsville, Alabama.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump went to Alabama Friday night to campaign for Sen. Luther Strange, telling supporters he had a better chance of beating the Democratic candidate than his primary opponent, Roy Moore. But the commander in chief found it difficult to stay on message, giving a nearly 90-minute rambling speech in which he all but acknowledged that endorsing Strange may have been a mistake and vowed to campaign for Moore if he won the primary.

In one of his many asides, Trump harshly criticized the NFL and its owners for tolerating players who he said disrespect the United States by failing to stand up for the national anthem. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said. “You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.”

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Trump called on supporters to “leave the stadium” to protest against the political statements by players. “I guarantee things will stop.” The president then went on to suggest the NFL was suffering a drop in ratings because it was being way too strict on hard tackles, seemingly criticizing the efforts to prevent injuries. “Because you know today if you hit too hard: Fifteen yards. Throw him out of the game,” Trump said. “That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. It is hurting the game.”

Commenting on the NFL was hardly the only time Trump got off topic at the rally in Huntsville, where many of the attendees openly told reporters they were only there to hear the president and would vote for Moore. The Washington Post summarizes:

He repeatedly cursed, mocked the leader of North Korea, jokingly threatened to fire a Cabinet member who endorsed Moore, called on professional football team owners to fire players who kneel during the national anthem, promised to build a new “see-through wall” on the southern border, called allegations of Russian interference in the election a “hoax,” accused unions of protecting “sadists” who abuse elderly veterans, and repeatedly relived the 2016 election.

Trump also said his supporters should vote for Strange at least in part because if he loses it would be really embarrassing for the president. “If Luther doesn't win, they're not going to say we picked up 25 points in a very short period of time. They're going to say, ‘Donald Trump, the president of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the line. It is a terrible, terrible moment for Trump. This is total embarrassment’.” The president also acknowledged that he “might have made a mistake” by endorsing Strange rather than outspoken conservative Moore, who is leading in the polls and has been endorsed by many conservatives, including his former chief adviser Steve Bannon.

Even if Strange loses though, Trump’s supporters shouldn’t worry because he’ll “be here campaigning like hell” for Moore.

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Alabama Sen. Luther Strange walks to embrace President Donald Trump during the senator's rally at the Von Braun Civic Center September 22, 2017 in Huntsville, Alabama.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.