Donald Trump blasts NFL players who knelt during national anthem, threatens suspension without pay

Thursday night's preseason action saw the Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins and teammate De'Vante Bausby raise a fist during the playing of the national anthem before their game against the Steelers while Dolphins' players Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson were the only reported instances of players kneeling ahead of their matchup with the Buccaneers.

The NFL issued a controversial and widely criticized anthem policy in late May that required players to either stand for the anthem or remain in the locker room. The policy was shelved late last month while the league and the NFLPA work jointly on a solution.

On Friday morning President Donald Trump took to Twitter to blast those players, something he has done repeatedly for almost a year.

"The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their 'outrage' at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love. Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!"

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones, who has said his players will stand for the anthem and not remain in the locker room, has previously spoken to Trump about the anthem issue. But two weeks ago, Jones conceded that the president isn't helping things when he takes to Twitter to blast the league or offer his own anthem polices.

In June, Trump said that he wanted to meet with players who have knelt during the anthem to protest social injustice because they've "seen a lot of abuse, they've seen a lot of unfairness" in their lives. He wanted to hear from these players so they can recommend to him people deserving of pardons.

"I'm going to ask all of those people to recommend to me — because that's what they're protesting — people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system," Trump told reporters at the time. "And I understand that. I'm going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated and I'm gonna take a look at those applications and if I find and my committee finds that they've been unfairly treated then we'll pardon them. Or at least let them out."

Several weeks later, four of those players -- Jenkins, Doug BaldwinAnquan Boldin and Benjamin Watson -- responded in a New York Times Op-Ed.

"... [A] handful of pardons will not address the sort of systemic injustice that NFL players have been protesting," the letter stated. "These are problems that our government has created, many of which occur at the local level. If President Trump thinks he can end these injustices if we deliver him a few names, he hasn't been listening to us."

Jenkins was asked after Thursday's game about his decision to continue protesting

"Quite frankly, guys in our league don't like being told what to do, what they can and can't do," he told Philly.com. "We don't have this type of policies for the other causes we support, whether it be our 'Salute to Service,' or breast cancer awareness, or anything else. It's just when you start talking about black folks, quite frankly. It's disheartening, but we'll continue to be creative."

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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