Ahead of Sunday's NFL games, Trump renews his call for players to stand during anthem

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President Trump talks with reporters Friday as he leaves the White House for his private golf club. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

On the eve of another Sunday of professional football, President Trump once again stoked the controversy over players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality, proclaiming on Twitter that he wants them to stand.

“Very important that NFL players STAND tomorrow, and always, for the playing of our National Anthem,” the president said Saturday night. “Respect our Flag and our Country!”

With the tweet, Trump raised the issue for a second straight weekend. Last Sunday, hundreds of players locked arms, some taking a knee, while some teams stayed in the locker room, all in response to Trump’s posture on the issue.

[From Freddie Gray through Ray Lewis, Baltimore at the center of NFL anthem debate]

At a political rally two days before, he said owners should fire players who don’t stand and called such players a “son of a b‑‑‑‑,” angering many in the league.

Trump, who is spending another weekend at his private golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., faced widespread criticism for focusing so heavily on the issue in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico days before. Aides have said Trump can focus on more than one issue at a time.

Before Saturday, Trump had dialed back the frequency of his comments about the NFL, although he had not backed away from the fight. During a television interview broadcast Thursday, he said NFL owners are “afraid of their players” and “in a box” on the issue.

Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started the form of protest last year to draw attention to police killings of unarmed black people and the oppression of minorities.

Most of the players who have knelt are African American. Trump has said his comments have nothing to do with race but are about respecting the country and the flag.

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