"They want to open and they want to open badly and they've been working with government," Trump said to Outkick the Coverage's Clay Travis about a potential NFL season (via TMZ Sports). "I would say this, If they don't stand for the national anthem, I hope they don't open. But, other than that I'd love to see them open and we're doing everything possible for getting them open."
Trump previously said it was "disgraceful" to see NBA players kneeling during the anthem after the league restarted the season in Orlando, Florida. The president added it led him to turning off NBA games.
Trump said in June he would not watch the NFL should players decline to stand for the anthem.
Kneeling during the national anthem has been a national talking point since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began doing so in 2016.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said to NFL Network's Steve Wyche at the time. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Some players joined with Kaepernick by kneeling, raising a fist or remaining seated while "The Star-Spangled Banner" played before games.
Trump condemned the protests during a September 2017 rally, saying that owners should "fire" players who don't stand for the anthem and calling for them to "get that son of a bitch off the field right now."
The president and many other critics of the protests have portrayed them as disrespectful to the American flag, the country's military and its anthem, but Kaepernick's former 49ers teammate Eric Reid wrote for the New York Times in 2017 that this was not the intention of the protests:
"After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy."
In May 2018, NFL owners approved a policy that required players to remain on their feet for the anthem while allowing them to remain in the locker room if they chose. Two months later, the league moved back from the rule.
With Americans across the country protesting against systemic racism and police brutality, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a video statement saying the league should've done more to support players who chose to engage in social activism.