President Donald Trump, who once said when asked if he thought Senator John McCain was a war hero, "I like people who weren't captured," continued to criticize former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem last season to protest social injustice.
"I watched Colin Kaepernick, and I thought it was terrible, and then it got bigger and bigger and started mushrooming, and frankly the NFL should have suspended him for one game, and he would have never done it again," Trump told Fox News's Sean Hannity in an interview Wednesday night before an audience in Harrisburg, Pa. "They could have then suspended him for two games, and they could have suspended him if he did it a third time, for the season, and you would never have had a problem. But I will tell you, you cannot disrespect our country, our flag, our anthem — you cannot do that."
Earlier Thursday Trump tweeted, "It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem — RESPECT OUR COUNTRY."
Trump was responding to a letter Goodell sent to every team on Tuesday that read in part, "Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us."
But the league has not enacted a rule requiring players to stand for the anthem -- at least not yet. This was made clear in a joint statement from the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
"Commissioner Roger Goodell reached out to NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith today and both he and player leadership will attend the League meetings next week. There has been no change in the current policy regarding the anthem. The agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized."
Meanwhile, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who gave $1 million to Trump's inauguration festivities, said this week that that any player who disrespects the flag will not be allowed to play for the Cowboys. Days later, he met with his team to discuss the new rule, though few details emerged.
This all comes on the heels of what appeared to be an orchestrated walk-out by Vice President Mike Pence, the former Indiana governor, on Sunday at the 49ers-Colts game on Sunday. Pence left after one series because he said he was offended that some of the 49ers players knelt during the anthem.
It has been almost a month since Trump's remarks at an Alabama rally created this latest firestorm.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now," the president said to a cheering crowd. "Out. He's fired. He's fired!"
Days later, more than 200 NFL players demonstrated during the anthem in protest. a 20-fold increase over the number of players who demonstrated in Week 1.