White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says U.S. President Donald Trump's criticisms of anthem protesters over the weekend is not focused on race, but on celebrating the flag and unity in the country. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. President Donald Trump kept up his verbal battle with National Football League over players who drop to one knee during the national anthem, saying on Monday their acts of protest had nothing to do with racism. Dozens of NFL players, coaches and even some owners joined in silent protest at games on Sunday against Trump's call for owners to fire players who do not stand during the "Star-Spangled Banner." "The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!" Trump said in a Twitter post on Monday. Some black athletes disputed that statement. The Republican kicked off his battle with the largest-grossing U.S. professional sports league at a political rally in Alabama on Friday, when he said any protesting player was a "son of a bitch" who should be "fired." He praised the NASCAR auto-racing league, which saw no signs of demonstrations on Sunday. The controversy highlighted a deep political rift that Trump's election has exposed across many segments of American society. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the practice of kneeling during the anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequities last year. No NFL team has signed Kaepernick for this season.