President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the NFL's business is "going to go to hell" if it does not require its players to stand for the national anthem.
Trump has railed against NFL players who have followed quarterback Colin Kaepernick's lead and kneeled during the national anthem, saying they should be fired or suspended.
A reporter asked Trump at the White House about his past remarks that white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville, Va. have the right to protest and whether Kaepernick also deserves his First Amendment rights.
"I think the NFL is in a box. I think they're in a really bad box," Trump said. "You look at what's happening with their ratings … The only thing that's doing well in the NFL is the pregame, because everybody wants to see what's going on. The NFL is in a very bad box."
Trump said people could not disrespect the national anthem, the flag, or the country.
"In my opinion, the NFL has to change, or do you know what's going to happen? Their business is going to go to hell," he said.
Trump added that the "fans agree with me" on the issue. NFL ratings are down this year, although it is unclear to what extent the protests have to do with the decline.
"Largely, the fans agree, but we have to show total respect for our national anthem, for our flag, for our country. We have to do it," he said. "When they're protesting during a football game, I think they can find better places, but they cannot do it during the national anthem."
The New York Times reported this week that Trump and his aides privately say his rhetoric against players kneeling during the national anthem is part of a culture war on behalf of his white, working-class base.