Following President Donald Trump’s comments that National Football League owners should fire players who do not stand for the national anthem, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said if he were president he would have not gotten involved.
Paul made his comments Sunday morning on Meet the Press, a news analysis program on NBC, while responding to the show host Chuck Todd’s question about Trump criticizing National Football League owners for not cutting players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.
“Well, if I were president, I probably would not get involved in this,” Paul said. “And the thing is, I do think, though, that the NFL makes money off of its fans. And the one thing you could hear from Trump saying that to that crowd is tens of thousands of people, and I think a lot of people across the country don’t understand sort of disrespecting the flag or disrespecting the country.”
Since 2016, several NFL players have refused to stand for the national anthem, beginning with then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick began his protest in response to racial inequality and police brutality in the United States.
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” Kaepernick said in 2016. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
However, Trump recently said he does not agree with such protests.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b---- off the field right now,’” Trump said at a Friday Alabama rally. “‘He is fired.’”
Paul added that NFL players have a right to protest and he understands the protests.
“I personally stand and say the pledge. And I think that’s the better way to do it. And take your complaint in a different venue,” he said.
Trump’s comments spurred several NFL players to decide not to stand for the pledge during Sunday’s football games. Some linked arms as a form of solidarity, including the Baltimore Ravens’ Za’Darius Smith, who played for the University of Kentucky, according to ESPN.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who have former Kentucky star Bud Dupree, former Eastern Kentucky punter Jordan Berry and Kentuckian Mike Mitchell on the team, opted to not have players on the field at all during the national anthem. One Steelers player, Alejandro Villanueva, elected to stand near the tunnel with his hand over his heart. Villanueva was an Army Ranger and served in Afghanistan,