President Donald Trump has praised NASCAR team owners after they warned to fire players who knelt during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality against people of color.
On Sept. 22, Trump entered the national debate over kneeling during the national anthem. He asserted that athletes who protested the American flag should be fired by their teams during an Alabama rally.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: ‘Get that son of a b***h off the field right now,'” Trump told the audience. “Out! He’s fired! He’s fired!”
In a statement released Monday afternoon, NASCAR said sports are a “unifying influence in our society.”
“Our respect for the national anthem has always been a hallmark of our pre-race events. Thanks to the sacrifices of many, we live in a country of unparalleled freedoms and countless liberties, including the right to peacefully express one’s opinion,” the statement said.
Trump then took to social media to congratulate NASCAR for largely siding with his stance on kneeling during the national anthem.
He wrote on Twitter, “So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag – they said it loud and clear!” on September 25.
The president continued: “Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total). … The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag, and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”
Though demonstrations have increased in response to President Trump including Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan who linked arms with players in a silent protest before an NFL game in London. Team owner Richard Petty, who won a record-tying seven championships as a driver, said he would fire any employee that didn’t stand for the anthem.
Additionally, retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. took to social media to tweet out a quote by former President John F. Kennedy, signaling that he supported athletes’ right to protest.
Team owner Chip Ganassi simply stated that he liked Mike Tomlin’s statement: “Many of them felt like something needed to be done … They were not going to be disrespectful in the anthem so they chose not to participate, but at the same time many of them were not going to accept the words of the president.”