President Trump says NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. And he's encouraging spectators to walk out in protest. In an extended riff during a freewheeling rally speech in Alabama Friday night, Trump also bemoaned that football games have become less aggressive, the AP reports. "They're ruining the game," he complained. Several athletes, including a handful of NFL players, have refused to stand during "The Star-Spangled Banner" to protest of the treatment of blacks by police. Trump says those players are disrespecting the flag and deserve to lose their jobs. "That's a total disrespect of our heritage. That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for," he said, encouraging owners to act.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired," Trump said to loud applause. Trump also predicted that any owner who went through with his encouragement would become "the most popular person in this country"—at least for a week. Trump, who was in Alabama campaigning for Sen. Luther Strange, also blamed a decline in NFL ratings on the nation's interest in "yours truly" as well as what he described as a decline in violence in the game. He said players are being thrown out for aggressive tackles, and it's "not the same game." But Trump said the anthem protest was the top reason NFL viewership had waned.