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Cris Collinsworth: President Trump ‘should apologize’ to NFL players

Some players for the Redskins kneel as others stand for the national anthem before a game against the Raiders. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Sunday’s NFL contests were replete with demonstrations by players during the national anthem, and when it came time for the night game, NBC was hardly about to shy away from the topic. In a discussion of President Trump’s comments about players engaging in anthem protests, analyst Cris Collinsworth said the commander in chief “should apologize” for using the phrase “son of a bitch.”

At a rally in Alabama on Friday, Trump told the crowd, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ”

Trump followed up his comments with several tweets Saturday and Sunday, including ones in which he said that players “should not be allowed to disrespect” the flag, and if they did, that they should be “FIRED.” He added on Twitter, “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”

Redskins players, owner link arms during anthem ahead of Sunday night tilt vs. Raiders

On the field before Sunday’s Redskins-Raiders game, NBC announcer Mike Tirico asked Collinsworth, “If you could talk to the president, what would you say to the president about all this stuff?”

“I would say he should apologize,” replied Collinsworth. “They’re not S.O.B.’s, they’re smart, thoughtful guys, they really are.”

NFL players “want exactly what the president wants,” Collinsworth asserted. “They want a better America.

“Their version of how to get there is different than the president’s, I understand that, but I guarantee you if the president invited — I can make a list of 10 guys — to the White House and heard their stories, and heard their thoughts and heard how concerned they are about America, they would find the common ground, and they would move this forward.”

“And I think an apology for the S.O.B. comment, right off the top, would go a long way,” Collinsworth added.

NBC also aired an interview by analyst Tony Dungy, a former NFL coach, with two members of the Dolphins who took a knee last season during the anthem, Kenny Stills and Michael Thomas. After hearing about efforts by the players at community outreach, including town hall meetings and ride-alongs with police officers, Dungy told studio host Dan Patrick that he “came away feeling that these guys are not unpatriotic S.O.B.’s.”

“These are guys who care about their community, they care about their country, they want to do something positive,” Dungy added. In the interview, Stills and Thomas had noted that they stood for the anthem during Miami’s first regular season game last week because they felt their protests had distracted people from the message they wanted to send, but Stills took a knee again Sunday.

In showings of protest and solidarity, NFL teams respond to Trump’s criticisms

Dungy said he asked Stills on Sunday about “what changed” and that the wide receiver told him he “did not want to allow the president to intimidate us or keep us from using our right to protest.” Dungy told Patrick, “We’ve got to listen to each other and go forward with a plan to make it better. That’s what leaders should do, including, in my opinion, our president.”

After the Dolphins lost to the Jets on Sunday, Thomas told reporters, “As a man, as a father, as an African American man, as someone in the NFL who is one of those ‘sons of bitches,’ yeah, I took it personal.” The safety got emotional while saying, “I’ve got a daughter who is going to have to live in this world. I’m going to do whatever I’ve got to do to make sure she can look at her dad and say he did something to make a change.”

NBC became just the latest network to address Trump’s comments and player reactions in their NFL pregame shows. Earlier, on Fox, analyst Tony Gonzalez said, “I’m not surprised by this, the president’s remarks. We’ve grown accustomed to hearing this. … But I will say this: All he did was galvanize the NFL to come together, from ownership to the players.”

CBS brought in basketball analyst Charles Barkley, known for outspoken opinions on a variety of topics, who said that Trump “should never use the word ‘S.O.B.’ That’s just 100 percent inappropriate.” An Alabama native, Barkley expressed disappointment that people from his state “would applaud something so stupid.”

After seeing players stand with arms linked during renditions of the anthem Sunday, while other player knelt or sat with arms linked, Trump tweeted, “Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!”

Asked by reporters Sunday if he wanted his supporters to boycott NFL games, Trump replied, “No, no, no — I don’t. They can do whatever they want.”

(H/T Awful Announcing)

Read more from The Post:

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NFL owners, team presidents and chief executives react to President Trump’s comments

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From Kaepernick sitting to Trump’s comments: Anthem protests have spurred discussion

Roger Goodell responds to Trump’s call to ‘fire’ NFL players protesting during national anthem