Trump urges NFL boycott over anthem protest

Donald Trump has renewed his attack on NFL stars kneeling during the national anthem, by urging fans to stop going to games “until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country”.

In tweets posted on Sunday morning, the US President told fans if they boycott matches “you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”

He added: “…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back US.”

His comments came after music legend Stevie Wonder became the biggest single name to #takeaknee so far.

As he took the stage for the Global Citizen Festival, aimed at eliminating poverty, the blind soul legend knelt, joining the protest against racial injustice started by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Stevie Wonder knelt with his son Kwame Wonder while performing in New York
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Stevie Wonder knelt with his son Kwame Wonder while performing in New York

Holding on to his son, Kwame Morris’ arm, the 67-year-old told the crowd: “Tonight, I’m taking a knee for America”.

On Saturday night, the protest spread to another sport, as Major League Baseball player Bruce Maxwell knelt during the anthem before his team, the Oakland Athletics, played the Texas Rangers, and he later predicted more will follow.

Bruce Maxwell, of the Oakland Athletics, knelt during the national anthem before playing the Texas Rangers
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Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to join the protest

Maxwell tweeted: “Don’t be surprised if you start seeing athletes kneeling in other sports now!! Comments like that coming from our president. WOW!”

Mr Trump’s war of words with protesting athletes began at an election rally in Alabama on Friday, where he urged team owners to deal with them by getting “that son of a bitch off the field right now,” and “fire them”.

On Saturday, after criticisms of his remarks by NFL administrators and team bosses, Mr Trump upped the ante, tweeting: “Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!”

The President has also got involved in a row with the NBA champions Golden State Warriors, after announcing that star player Stephen Curry would not be welcome at the White House for the traditional visit made by championship teams, because he was “hesitating”.

That prompted Warriors coach Steve Kerr to publicly condemn Mr Trump’s remarks as “divisive”, while basketball legend LeBron James simply called him a “bum”.

Several NFL stars have either knelt, sat or raised fists during the anthem to protest against police treatment of people of colour and social injustice, in a movement christened #takeaknee.

Colin Kaepernick (C), Eric Reid (R) and Eli Harold (L) kneel in protest during the national anthem in October 2016
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Colin Kaepernick (C), began the protest against racial injustice in October 2016

During last week’s round of games, four players sat or knelt during the anthem and two raised their fists, while others stood by the protesters in support and many are predicting more protests later as the weekend’s round of matches gets under way.

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