Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump has claimed that NFL teams were “afraid” of their players, the latest foray into a racially charged debate over game-time protests.
Trump made the claim about the players — a majority of whom are African-American — after claiming to have spoken to NFL owners, who are almost exclusively white.
“I have so many friends that are owners,” Trump told Fox News in an interview broadcast Thursday. “They’re in a box.”
“I mean I’ve spoken to a couple of them. They say, we are in a situation where we have to do something.”
“I think they’re afraid of their players, you want to know the truth. And I think it’s disgraceful.”
In 2016, players began taking a knee during the national anthem to protest against the police killings of unarmed African-Americans and broader social injustice.
Trump has fanned anger over that symbolic protest by claiming it disrespects America and veterans.
That has only spurred more protests, with some owners joining their teams in taking a knee.
Ninety-four percent of the black voters in a Quinnipiac University poll published Wednesday said they believed Trump is not fit to serve as president.
About the same number — 95 percent — said they did not approve of the way he is handling race relations.