President Trump scoffed Monday at Hillary Clinton’s defense of NFL players kneeling for the national anthem, saying that kind of thinking is what cost her the presidential election.
He also jokingly pleaded with her to run again in 2020.
“Hillary, please run again!” he said at a Rose Garden press conference when asked about her NFL remarks.
“That’s why she lost the election. It’s that thinking,” said Mr. Trump.
Mrs. Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee who suffered an upset loss in November, said Sunday that kneeling was a “reverent” expression.
She also said that criticism of the protests was a “very clear dog whistle” to Mr. Trump’s base, whom she often accuses of being racist.
“That’s what black athletes kneeling was all about,” she said at an event to promote her book. “That’s not against our anthem or our flag.”
The kneeling began as part of the Black Lives Matter protests against police mistreatment of black citizens.
Mr. Trump recently touched off an intense controversy over the player protests when he said the teams should fire players who don’t stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
He slightly tempered those comments in the Rose Garden but stood by his assertion that players should be forced to respect the flag.
“When you go down and talk a knee or in any other way — you’re sitting essentially — for our great national anthem, you are disrespecting our flag and you are disrupting our country,” he said. “And the NFL should have suspended some of these players for one game, not fire them, suspend them for one game.”
The president also suggested increasing penalties for repeat offenses.
“If they did it again, it could have been two games and then three games and then the season,” said Mr. Trump. “You wouldn’t have people disrespecting our country right now.”
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