- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 24, 2017

The White House’s chief liaison to Capitol Hill on Sunday said President Trump is siding with most Americans in criticizing National Football League players who kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest.

“I think that the president is standing with the vast majority of Americans who believe that our flag should be respected,” Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I think the president’s saying that, yes, players have a First Amendment right,” Mr. Short said. “But NFL owners also have a right. And that right is that these players represent their teams. And if the owners want to get rid of them, they should be allowed to get rid of them.”

Mr. Trump on Sunday raised the specter of a fan boycott if the protests continue.

“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!” the president tweeted.

NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.” he also tweeted.

Mr. Trump’s comments have prompted pushback from players and some NFL owners, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft — a personal friend and major supporter of the president.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that players can exercise free speech on their own time.

“You know, the NFL has all different types of rules. You can’t have stickers on your helmet; you have to have your jerseys tucked in,” Mr. Mnuchin said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I think what the president is saying is that the owner[s] should have a rule that players should have to stand and [show] respect for the national anthem,” Mr. Mnuchin said.

“This isn’t about Democrats. It’s not about Republicans. It’s not about race,” he said. “It’s not about free speech. They can do free speech on their own time … this is about respect for the military and the first responders and the country.”

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