In the first White House press briefing since President Donald Trump bashed NFL players who protest during the national anthem, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump and suggested protesting players find a new target.
'They should probably protest the officers on the field who that are protecting them instead of the American flag, ' she told a reporter who asked her about the White House's framing of the demonstrations during a news conference.
"I think it's always appropriate for the president of the United States to promote our flag, to promote our national anthem and ask people to respect it", she said. On Sunday, nearly each of the 32 National Football League teams released a statement expressing solidarity with players who chose to participate in pregame demonstrations, and three owners stood with their team's players on the sidelines as the anthem was performed.
In a follow-up, Huckabee Sanders said she was not advocating protesting police officers but was "pointing out the hypocrisy" of the players. As for the criticism that Trump spent hours feverishly tweeting about sports instead of focusing on Puerto Rico or the Graham-Cassidy health care bill, she championed the President's instinct to "always emphasize ... something that should be unifying, celebrating, and promoting patriotism in our country". "I'm not sure why those two things would be combined".
The Republican kicked off his battle with the largest-grossing US professional sports league at a political rally in Alabama on Friday, when he said any protesting player was a "son of a bitch" who should be "fired".
His remarks struck many as stoking racial resentments because the players he criticized were black and their protests were meant to highlight racial injustice.
Trump's rant about protests and other sports-related topics on Friday started a weekend-long tweetstorm in which the president commented on National Basketball Association athletes, an NHL visit to the White House, and, eventually, the behavior of NASCAR drivers. She also insisted Trump's remarks were in no way about race. He is simply "for" national pride, the flag, the anthem, and the troops.
"When [Trump] tweets something, it does take away from his legislative agenda".
SANDERS: No. No. That's not what I'm saying.
Bob Costas said of Trump's criticism of National Football League protests, "The idea that this doesn't have something to do with race is preposterous".