President Donald Trump held a rally Friday night in Alabama ahead of the state's Sept. 26 primary election, and he didn't shy away from commenting on the NFL's television ratings and players who have decided to protest social injustice during the national anthem.
"NFL ratings are down massively," Trump said, according to CNN's Brian Stelter. "Now, the No. 1 reason happens to be that they like watching what's happening...with yours truly."
Speaking of anthem protesters, Trump asserted he would like to see owners take charge and cut those players from their respective teams: "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.'"
MSNBC's Nick Ramsey relayed video of Trump's remarks:
fake nick ramsey @nick_ramsey
... trump taking a veiled shot at colin kaepernick, says owner should say: "get that sonofabitch off the field right now... he's fired!!" https://t.co/ttbOd0VrPG2017-9-23 00:48:41
Trump also referred to the protests as "a total disrespect of our heritage" and "a total disrespect of everything we stand for," per the Toronto Star's Daniel Dale.
A group of NFL players chimed in with their thoughts on Twitter following Trump's speech:
Michael Thomas @Michael31Thomas
Continue to use your voices and your platforms for racial equality and to stop injustices in our communities. This is bigger than us!!! ✊🏿2017-9-23 03:01:01
Bishop Sankey @BishopSankey
Smh & all because @Kaepernick7 is exercising his right as an American citizen to protest.2017-9-23 02:09:09
Zach Brown @ZachBrown_55
Trump stay in ur place... football have nothing to do wit u smh2017-9-23 01:51:55
Thomas Davis @ThomasDavisSDTM
Trump!! 😔😔😔😔😔😔😔2017-9-23 01:56:21
NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith and NFLPA player chairman Eric Winston released statements as well:
DeMaurice Smith @DeSmithNFLPA
We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports. https://t.co/Ec3Bc4qt9h2017-9-23 10:57:38
Eric Winston @ericwinston
My statement: https://t.co/xxX6LRI92f2017-9-23 17:17:44
As far as ratings are concerned, Sports Media Watch (via Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch) noted, "nine of the 13 NFL windows through Week 2 have posted a decrease this season year over year."
On Friday, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tweeted the five most watched shows television shows last week were all NFL games, with the Denver Broncos' 42-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Sports Authority Field at Mile High drawing nearly 26 million viewers.