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USA TODAY Sports spoke with Seton Hall’s Director of Sports Management Charles Grantham about Roger Goodell’s video apology to the players.

USA TODAY

President Donald Trump held a rally Saturday night for the first time in three months, hitting on a myriad of topics in front of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, crowd. 

One topic that came up: the idea of taking a knee during the national anthem. 

“And explain this to the NFL. I like the NFL, I like Roger Goodell, but I didn’t like what he said a week ago,” Trump said, referring to the commissioner’s video of support for Black players, which the president perceived as the NFL giving its blessing to players to kneel during the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality and other racial and social injustices. Trump maintains that kneeling is disrespectful to the flag and the country. 

“I said ‘where did that come from in the middle of the summer? Nobody’s even asking,’ ” Trump continued, before emphatically saying to cheers:  “We will never kneel to our national anthem or our great American flag. We will stand proud, and we will stand tall.”

Protests have been ongoing throughout the country following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes, even as Floyd pleaded “I can’t breathe.” Goodell’s video comments came after players called on the NFL to “condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black people.”

Goodell said in response that “I personally protest with you, and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country.” 

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Kneeling during the anthem was widespread in 2017 after Trump made derogatory remarks at a rally about players who chose to take a knee in protest. He apparently thought that would largely be the end of it, though there have been plenty of players who have continued taking a knee or demonstrating during the anthem in the years since. 

“I thought we won that battle with the NFL. Their stadiums were emptying out,” Trump said Saturday night. “Took them a long time to get you back. A lot of people didn’t like that.”  

While NFL viewership did decline in 2017 – though it’s largely uncertain how large a role the protests played in that, if any – the league has had two straight seasons of ratings increases

Trump has said he won’t watch NFL games this season if there’s kneeling

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