Several owners of Nascar teams in America have warned that they will back Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL players who protest during the playing of the country’s national anthem should be sacked.
There were no signs of dissent on Sunday prior to a race at the New Hampshire Motorspeedway after the warnings, and Trump tweeted his support for the stance on Monday: “So proud of Nascar and its supporters and fans. They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag – they said it loud and clear!”
The American president followed up almost immediately with another comment on Twitter referring to the NFL controversy that flared up in London and in the States at the weekend: “Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total). These are fans who demand respect for our Flag!”
“It’ll get you a ride on a Greyhound bus,” one prominent Nascar owner, Richard Childress, had said. “Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.”
Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty took those sentiments a step further, stating: “Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.” When asked if a protester at Richard Petty Motorsports would be fired, he said: “You’re right.”
Team owner Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls as coach of the Washington Redskins, said of the anthem that, “so much has been sacrificed for our country and our flag. It’s a big deal for us to honour America.”
The controversy follows Trump’s comments on Friday, in which he called on NFL owners to fire players who refuse to stand for the national anthem. NFL players subsequently delivered a defiant message on both sides of the Atlantic on Sunday with various protests during the American anthem.
Rather than deter players from doing so, there were widespread protests, beginning with over 20 players kneeling in London before the Jacksonville Jaguars’ victory over the Baltimore Ravens. In America, the anthem was played at Nissan Stadium in Tennessee with both the Titans and Seattle Seahawks squads remaining in their locker rooms.
Trump returned to the subject again on Monday when he tweeted: “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”
The next arena for possible protests will be the Presidents Cup golf tournament between America and an international team, excluding Europe, which begins on Thursday. The high-profile NBA preseason then starts on Saturday.
Davis Love III, vice-captain for the American team at the Presidents Cup, has called for restraint.
“Any athlete can protest. Whether it’s Lebron James or Colin Kaepernick or me or anybody else, that’s an American right. But sometimes you have to put personal statements and desires aside in the name of team unity and trying to reach a common goal,” Love told Sports Illustrated magazine.
“Next year, I am [vice-captain for the Ryder Cup team]. If I talked about President Trump’s tweets and comments about the NFL and the Steph Curry and all that, I’d be putting myself ahead of the team. And I can’t do that. I have to put team first.
“Part of being a Tour player is showing restraint. When you get on the PGA Tour, they tell you: you’re representing yourself, the game, the Tour, our sponsors – all of it. You don’t just say or do as you please. When you’re representing your country, like in the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup, that becomes even more true.”