President Donald Trump claimed in a pre-Super Bowl interview Sunday that NFL ratings are up because he ended player protests against racial injustice.
In an interview with CBS News, Trump took credit for players no longer kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism and claimed that the end of the protests resulted in improved popularity.
“They haven’t been kneeling and they have been respecting the flag and their ratings have been terrific ever since,” Trump said. “And a lot of good things happened.”
“I think that when you want to protest I think that’s great,” he told host Margaret Brennan. “But I don’t think you do it at the sake of our flag, at the sake of our national anthem. Absolutely."
“I think that people have to, at all times, respect our flag and at all times respect our national anthem and our country,” he said. “And I think there are plenty of places and times you can protest and you can do a lot. But you can’t do that. That’s my opinion.”
Trump’s interview aired shortly before the Super Bowl. The game saw a huge drop in ratings from last year and the lowest ratings of any Super Bowl since 2009.
NFL host hits back:
CBS Sports host James Brown appeared on the show after Trump and took issue with the president’s comments.
Brown said that the league has not put the protest issue behind them because “it’s not an issue that can be moved past.”
“The narrative has been that the players would be anti-patriotic, anti-flag, anti-police, anti-military,” he said, noting that many of the players have family members in those fields. “But if the narrative has been hijacked to say that it is no matter what — it’s a nonstarter, you’re not hearing. The two sides ought to hear each other to make progress.”
Civil rights icon backs protesters:
Georgia Rep. John Lewis spoke out during the Super Bowl weekend in Atlanta in defense of players who protested racial injustice during the anthem.
“There’s nothing wrong with kneeling,” Lewis said. “Before we marched from Selma to Montgomery, on March 7, 1965, we knelt. We prayed. Andy Young was the only person standing out of the 600 of us. We knelt, and when we said, ‘Amen,’ we stood and we started walking. Sometimes you have to use the most simple means of engaging in peaceful, nonviolent protest.”