Sessions: 'Every American' should stand during national anthem
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday night condemned NFL players for taking a knee during the national anthem, saying that "every American" should salute the flag.
In an interview on Fox News Channel's "Tucker Carlson Tonight," Sessions accused NFL players kneeling during the anthem of "demeaning" the flag and by extension the U.S.
"They haven't thought it through," Sessions said. "They haven't realized that what they're doing is actually demeaning the country, not some politician [that] they disagree with, not some issue that they feel strongly about.
"How is that the right way to express such a view?" he added.
Sessions said that without respect for the flag, America isn't strong enough to have the kind of "contentious debates" over race that it needs to have.
"They have all kinds of ways to express their own opinions, but I think every American, no matter what their views on the issues, should stand for America, should salute the flag," Sessions said. "I think otherwise, we don't have the kind of nation that's healthy that we need to have to be strong and to be able to have contentious debates within it."
More than 200 NFL players sat or knelt when the national anthem played during games this past Sunday, after President Trump renewed debate on the issue during a rally on Friday, blasting athletes who don't stand and suggesting they be fired.
The president stoked an issue dating back to last year, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked debate by kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to the treatment of people of color in America.
Sessions on Tuesday defended Trump's call for NFL owners to fire players who protest during the national anthem, saying Trump has a right to free speech the same as the athletes do.
"Absolutely not," Sessions responded when asked if Trump's remarks chill First Amendment rights. "The president of the United States has free speech. He believes and I believe that people should take a moment before a football game and stand [when] the national anthem is played. What's wrong with that?"
Sessions similarly defended Trump's NFL attacks earlier in the day during remarks at Georgetown University Law Center.
Trump doubled down on his remarks targeting NFL players on Tuesday by calling for the NFL to institute a rule banning protests during the anthem.
"The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations," Trump tweeted. "The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can't kneel during our National Anthem!"
The president blasted football players who protest the national anthem before games during a fiery campaign rally Friday in Alabama, calling on NFL coaches to fire players that do so.
"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. He is fired,'" Trump said.