The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear in multiple statements that they support players kneeling during the national anthem in protest of systemic racism and police brutality. The expectation is that even more players will do so during the 2020 season, much to President Donald Trump's dislike. He vowed to boycott the NFL if players kneel.
"Tony Fauci has nothing to do with NFL Football. They are planning a very safe and controlled opening. However, if they don't stand for our National Anthem and our Great American Flag, I won't be watching!!!" Trump tweeted on Saturday. He tweeted this in response to Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying that NFL players would have to test players every day and keep them in a bubble to ensure their safety.
Trump's comments first made Twitter users think that he was supporting the league and their attempts to return to action in September. However, his vow to boycott the NFL took the conversation in a different direction. This statement confirmed to many that he would be criticizing the league throughout the summer and into the season if it allows the players to continue kneeling in protest.
Throughout his presidency, Trump has spoken out about players kneeling during the national anthem, whether it occurs in the NFL, Major League Soccer, NASCAR or other sports. He previously threatened to boycott the NFL during a Twitter interaction with Rep. Jim Jordan. He drew the ire of players in 2017 by saying the teams should fire these players after he called them "sons of b—es."
The Ohio-based politician had expressed anger about U.S. Soccer no longer requiring players to stand during the national anthem. Trump replied by writing, "And it looks like the NFL is heading in that direction also, but not with me watching!" He also said that he wouldn't be watching much soccer anymore after the change in policy.
The president similarly criticized the NFL and Goodell following a video in which the commissioner stated that "Black Lives Matter" and that the league was wrong back in 2016. This referenced former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest of police brutality during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. When Trump saw this video, he said that "no one was asking" Goodell to make this statement.
"I saw the NFL get very weak," Trump said. "I think they'll lose a lot of fans and a lot of support. That already happened before, I thought they learned their lesson, but I think it's going to happen again. I was surprised at Roger, Roger Goodell, that he would have done what he did and made this statement that he made. Nobody was even asking for it."