Trump: I Think NFL Owners Are ‘Afraid of Their Players’

President Donald Trump said in an interview airing Thursday that he thinks NFL owners are afraid of their players who take a knee or perform other acts of protest during the national anthem.

Trump touched off a firestorm in the sports world when he said at a rally in Alabama last week that "son of a bitch" players who don't stand for the national anthem should be fired from their teams. He has stood by the remarks, saying it's about respect for the country and that the NFL's business will "go to hell" if it doesn't do something about the protests.

Trump told "Fox and Friends" host Pete Hegseth that he had many friends who are NFL owners who had told him they're in "a situation where they have to do something."

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"I think they’re afraid of their players, if you want to know the truth, and I think it’s disgraceful," Trump said. "They’ve got to be tough, and they’ve got to be smart."

Trump said "most people" agreed with his stance and the NFL was "in a box" on the issue. According to a recent report, DirecTV is offering refunds to customers who bought "NFL Sunday Ticket" if they cite the national anthem protests as their reason for no longer watching.

NFL ratings are also down, although for a variety of reasons.

Trump said he saw the protests begin a year ago with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and called it a "terrible thing."

"The NFL cannot disrespect our country. They cannot disrespect our flag or our national anthem, and they can't have people sitting down or kneeling down during our national anthem," he said.