President Donald Trump criticized NFL players who lodge protests during the pregame national anthem, saying Friday night that he wished those players would be released. He also encouraged fans who are offended to walk out of stadiums.
Speaking at a political rally in Huntsville, Alabama, Trump said: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out. He's fired! He's fired!'"
Trump said the protests are "hurting the game." Trump also said referees are "ruining the game" by calling 15-yard penalties for "beautiful" tackles.
The NFL responded Saturday with a statement from commissioner Roger Goodell.
"The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we've experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities," the statement said.