Trump Reconsiders Kaepernick, but Not Kneeling

President Trump said that the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick should get a shot at another job in the N.F.L. if he was qualified, his latest attempt to meddle in the business of the country’s biggest sports league.

“I would love to see him get another shot, but obviously he has to be able to play well,” Trump said Wednesday in an interview with the Sinclair Broadcast Group. “If he can’t play well, I think it would be very unfair.”

Trump spoke again about Kaepernick during an interview on Wednesday night with Sean Hannity of Fox News, reiterating that he believed Kaepernick, 32, deserved another shot in the N.F.L. “if he has the ability.”

The president has repeatedly criticized Kaepernick and other players who knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African-American people and other forms of social injustice. In 2017, Trump urged N.F.L. owners to fire any players who protested during the national anthem.

He said earlier this week that he would not watch N.F.L. games if players continued to protest. In his Sinclair and Fox News interviews on Wednesday, he repeated that he remained opposed to kneeling during the anthem.

“When the national anthem plays, and our flag — the great American flag — is raised, you should not be kneeling,” Trump said on “Hannity.” “You should be standing, ideally with your hand on your heart, or saluting, but they should not be kneeling.”

Kaepernick, who during the 2016 season became the first player to kneel, has not played in more than three years. Last year, he and a former teammate, Eric Reid, received a multimillion-dollar payment from the N.F.L. after Kaepernick accused the league of blackballing him because of his protests, which divided owners, fans and politicians.

Trump and other critics said Kaepernick and other players were disrespecting the flag by kneeling during the national anthem, while the players have insisted they were only trying to raise awareness of an important social issue.

This month, N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized for not listening to players who protested, though he did not name Kaepernick. This week, he said that he would encourage and support any team that offered Kaepernick a tryout.

Bowing to pressure from the president, the N.F.L. owners in 2018 strengthened a policy that would require all players to stand for the anthem while on the field, though they were also free to remain in the locker room during pregame ceremonies.

Not long after, the N.F.L. Players Association filed a grievance accusing the league of acting unilaterally. Since then the league has never enforced the policy.

While Trump agrees with Goodell that Kaepernick should get another chance to play in the N.F.L., the president made clear he continued to oppose players who protest during the anthem.

Trump also expressed disappointment on “Hannity” that Drew Brees, the star quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, had apologized this month for saying that he considered it disrespectful for players to kneel during the national anthem. After walking back his stance, Brees directed an Instagram post to the president, saying, “We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform.”

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