Trump Says He Will Stop Watching Any Sports Game Where Players Take a Knee

President Donald Trump has reiterated his belief players kneeling during the national anthem disrespect the U.S. flag, saying each time he witnesses a player taking a knee "the game is over for me."

Trump has staunchly opposed the gesture since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the anthem to protest against racial discrimination and police brutality.

Trump has repeatedly accused protesters of disrespecting the national anthem and the flag and in the four years since Kaepernick first took a knee, the gesture has developed into an endless source of political debate.

On Tuesday morning, the president again touched on the issue, less than a day after San Francisco Giants players knelt during the national anthem ahead of their exhibition game against the Oakland Athletics.

"Looking forward to live sports, but any time I witness a player kneeling during the National Anthem, a sign of great disrespect for our Country and our Flag, the game is over for me!," Trump tweeted.

Looking forward to live sports, but any time I witness a player kneeling during the National Anthem, a sign of great disrespect for our Country and our Flag, the game is over for me!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2020

On Monday, Giants manager Gabe Kapler and several players, including right fielder Jaylin Davis, knelt during the anthem at Oakland Coliseum, as did first base coach Antoan Richardson.

Speaking after the game, Kapler said he wanted to use his platform to call out the "systemic racism" in America and the way it has been handled.

He revealed he had reassured his players that they would not be forced to take a knee and would have the full support of the franchise, regardless of what they decided to do.

"I wanted them to know that I wasn't pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality and I told them I wanted to amplify their voices and I wanted to amplify the voice of the Black community and marginalized communities as well," he was quoted as saying.

"So I told them that I wanted to use my platform to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the way we've handled racism in our country.

"I wanted to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with our clear systemic racism in our country and I wanted them to know that they got to make their own decisions and we would respect and support those decisions. I wanted them to feel safe in speaking up."

Trump's comments on the issue of kneeling are likely to exacerbate an already polarized debate on protests for racial equality sparked by the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

In the weeks following Floyd's death, several NFL players pledged to emulate Kaepernick and take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement when the season begins on September 10.

Last month, Trump suggested NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could allow players to kneel in protests this season.

"Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell's rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?" he tweeted.

The president's rebuke came after Goodell had released a video in which he encouraged players to "protest peacefully," condemning racism and acknowledging the league had not done enough to heed Black players' calls for justice.

In June, Trump also criticized Drew Brees after the New Orleans Saints quarterback apologized for "missing the mark" with his previous comments on players protesting during the national anthem.

Brees had first claimed he would "never understand" players kneeling during the anthem and suggested he felt the gesture was disrespectful. The veteran quarterback subsequently backtracked, issuing a video apology and vowing to "do better".

The president, however, insisted Brees had nothing to apologize for.

"I am a big fan of Drew Brees," he wrote on Twitter.

"I think he's truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag. OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high..."

In a separate tweet, he added: "We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!"

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump stands for the National Anthem as he attends the College Football Playoff National Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, January 13. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty