By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – President Donald Trump continued to call on NFL players protesting social injustice to stand for the national anthem on Friday, saying they should be suspended without pay if they fail to do so.
In a series of tweets, Trump said the players should "find another way to protest" and claimed many of those demonstrating the shooting deaths of black men by police and social inequalities the black community faces "are unable to define" why they are taking a knee or failing to take the field for the national anthem.
"The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their 'outrage' at something that most of them are unable to define," Trump said.
"They make a fortune doing what they love. Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!" he added.
His tirade follows the National Football League's second night of preseason games. Predominantly black players across the league took a knee during the singing of the National Anthem or stayed off field while it was sung.
Prior to taking the field Thursday night, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who is black, took a moment to urge reflection on the disproportionate amount of prisoners in the U.S.'s criminal justice system who are minorities.
"Before we enjoy this game lets take some time to ponder that more than 60% of the prison population are people of color. The NFL is made up of 70% African Americans. What you witness on the field does not represent the reality of everyday America," he wrote on Twitter. "We are the anomalies…"
The protests has long been a focus of criticism for Trump, but has been staunchly defended by proponents as an exercise in free speech that seeks to draw attention to social injustices.
Chris Long, the white defensive end for the Eagles, stood proudly next to Malcolm during the singing of the anthem as his teammate held up an outstretched fist.
"For Malcolm, I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but when you talk about symbolic protests or whatever, or drawing attention to causes through symbolism, I think you have to go back and forth because you’re like – well, this isn’t what’s moving the needle necessarily, it’s about action – but Malcolm can always rest assured that he’s taking action and he can always sleep good at night knowing that he’s not being a fraud," Long, who put his hand on Malcolm's shoulder while he protested, said, according to the NJ.com website.