WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump ramped up his fight with the National Football League (NFL) yesterday, calling on it to ban players from kneeling in protest at games while the US national anthem is being played.
"The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can't kneel during our National Anthem!" Mr Trump wrote on Twitter, fuelling his war of words with the NFL in his fifth straight day of public comments on the issue.
Representatives for the league and its players' union could not be reached immediately for comment.
Mr Trump earlier yesterday praised two NFL teams that had largely steered clear of the controversy on Monday night.
The Arizona Cardinals linked arms and stood for the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, along with the Dallas Cowboys, who knelt before the song. "But while Dallas dropped to its knees as a team, they all stood up for our National Anthem. Big progress being made - we all love our country!" Mr Trump wrote, adding that "ratings for NFL football are way down".
Television networks reported a mixed impact on viewership for Sunday's games. It was the latest salvo from Mr Trump after he ignited the fight with the players in the biggest-grossing US pro sports league last week.
Last Friday, he told a political rally that any protesting player was a "son of a b****" who should be fired, and urged a boycott of NFL games, touching off protests by dozens of players, coaches and some owners before games on Sunday.
Mr Trump's verbal assault may play well with his conservative base at a time when the Republican President is grappling with North Korea's nuclear threats, a humanitarian crisis in hurricane-struck Puerto Rico, an investigation into Russian meddling in the election last year and healthcare legislation.
Mrs Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump's rival in last year's presidential contest, blasted him for targeting black players and stoking racial tensions.
"He's very strategic about who he attacks, and he is sending a message. It's a huge loud dog whistle to his supporters," she said in an interview on the CBS This Morning programme.