United States President Donald Trump reiterated his displeasure with athletes' decision to protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.
Trump, a critic of the movement since it was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016, was asked about NBA players kneeling during a Wednesday appearance on Fox News' Fox & Friends (via Scott Gleeson of USA Today).
"I think it's disgraceful," Trump said. "We work with (the NBA), we worked with them very hard trying to get open. I was pushing for them to get open. Then I see everybody kneeling during the anthem. That's not acceptable to me. When I see them kneeling during the game, I just turn off the game. I have no interest in the game. Let me tell you this, plenty of other people out there, too."
He added: "When I see people kneeling during the playing and disrespecting our flag and national anthem, what I do personally is turn off the game."
Trump has long misrepresented the kneeling movement as disrespect toward the American flag and the military.
Former NFL long snapper Nate Boyer, who served in the U.S. Army Special Forces and helped Kaepernick develop the method of protest, debunked that stance in June:
Nate Boyer @NateBoyer37
Welp, it’s #FlagDay 🇺🇸 Just a friendly reminder that it’s not racist to honor it & it’s not unpatriotic to kneel before it. From Independence Hall in Philly to the friggin’ Moon in Outer Space the Ragged Old Flag has endured; a symbol of freedom & hope, not yet experienced by ALL https://t.co/hP1BbHudxQ
Meanwhile, Trump also falsely suggested on Fox & Friends that NBA television ratings have significantly dropped because of players' decision to kneel, per Gleeson.
"The ratings for the basketball are way down, as you know," he said. "I hear some others are way down, including baseball. We have stand up for our flag, stand up for our country. A lot of people agree with me. If I'm wrong, I'm going to lose an election. That's okay with me. I will always stand for our flag."
Sports Media Watch reported Tuesday that NBA television ratings are actually up 14 percent since the league restarted play at the Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida.
Trump previously made similar false claims about NASCAR's television ratings, saying they were the lowest "ever" amid its decision to ban the confederate flag and Black driver Bubba Wallace having a rope in his garage tied in the same manner as a noose. In reality the Cup Series' ratings had more than doubled at the time.
New Orleans Pelicans guard J.J. Redick told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes on Thursday that players aren't concerned with whether the White House TVs are tuned in.
"First of all, I don't think anybody in the NBA cares if President Trump watches basketball. I couldn't care less," he said. "As far as his base, I think regardless of the specificity of tweeting about the NBA, every tweet of his is meant to divide, every tweet is meant to incite, every tweet is meant to embolden his base."
Most NBA players have worn Black Lives Matter shirts while taking a knee during the anthem since the 2019-20 season resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic. They also have the option of using a social-justice inspired message on their jerseys.