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The Latest: Nike supports players’ freedom of expression

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The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s criticism of protesting athletes (all times local):

12:17 p.m.

Sporting goods behemoth Nike is weighing in on NFL player protests of the national anthem and President Donald Trump’s comments over the weekend.

The company says it “supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society.”

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12:01 p.m.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is at odds with President Donald Trump on the issue of player protests of the national anthem, calling Trump’s comments “just divisive.”

Brady tells Boston’s WEEI-FM that he “certainly” disagrees with Trump’s comment that NFL owners should fire any player who refuses to stand for the anthem.

Patriots locked arms with some teammates during the “Star-Spangled Banner” Sunday against the Texans while other players kneeled.

Brady has called Trump a “good friend” in the past and one of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats was spotted in Brady’s locker in 2015. Trump has often praised the quarterback on social media.

Brady skipped a White House visit with Trump in April when the team celebrated its fifth Super Bowl title.

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11:40 a.m.

Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a prominent civil rights leader, says that President Donald Trump’s comments about protesting NFL players were “beneath the dignity of the president.”

Trump used profanity in referring to NFL players who don’t stand during the national anthem.

Lewis says he couldn’t believe what he heard during the president’s campaign rally in his native state.

Lewis says Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., often said Americans have a right to protest for what is right.

Speaking outside the Capitol, Lewis also says Americans have a long history of protesting with peaceful, orderly and non-violent actions.

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11:20 a.m.

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart is firing back at President Donald Trump for attacking players who kneel during the national anthem. He says their protests against racial inequality and police brutality are “real locker room talk.”

It was an apparent reference to Trump being caught on tape talking with “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women. Trump later dismissed his remarks made in the 2005 video, which emerged a month before the November election, as “locker room talk.”

Many NFL players on Sunday locked arms with their teammates — some standing, others kneeling — in a show of solidarity. “Everyone should know, including the president, this is what real locker room talk is,” Lockhart said Monday during a conference call.

He said: “We don’t seek to get into political debates or relish being in the middle of it, but extraordinary statements from our clubs and owners demonstrate just how deeply we believe in our players and in our game.”

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7:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump says his criticism of football players who kneel during the national anthem “has nothing to do with race.”

The president says on Twitter on Monday that the issue is “about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”

The president tweeted that many people “booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total). These are fans who demand respect for our Flag!”

He also points with pride to NASCAR supporters, writing, “They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag – they said it loud and clear!”

About football 200 players decided to stand, kneel or raise their fists during the national anthem at NFL games on Sunday in response to Trump’s calls for players to be fired.

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5:05 a.m.

President Donald Trump has created drama over the last three days by criticizing activist athletes.

He’s drawn criticism for saying football players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired.

The conflict peaked Sunday with Trump’s remarks that had the effect of uniting a newly minted coalition including a growing number of players and coaches, as well as some owners who have backed the president.

Trump told reporters in New Jersey that kneeling was “very disrespectful to our flag and to our country” and “owners should do something.”

Trump pushed back against the suggestion that his critique could inflame racial tensions, arguing: “I never said anything about race.”

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