Trump Dismisses NFL Protests Before Super Bowl: 'I Took Care of' Criminal Justice Reform

President Trump has also claimed he "took care of" the racial injustice the #TakeaKnee movement protests against

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President Donald Trump. Photo: Zach Gibson - Pool/Getty

President Donald Trump, who has spoken against the #TakeAKnee movement in the past, doesn’t believe there’s any reason why people should be protesting the NFL.

During an interview with CBS This Morning on Sunday, hours before the Super Bowl, Trump reiterated his stance against the movement, which was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to protest racial injustices.

“You can’t be kneeling for the national anthem. You have to respect our flag and our country. I want that as president and I’d want that as a citizen,” he remarked.

Kaepernick, 31, started the #TakeAKnee movement in 2016, when he declined to stand for the national anthem at games in protest of police brutality and the racial injustices faced by people of color in the U.S. While the silent act of protest quickly spread to other NFL teams, it also generated substantial backlash and ignited a political firestorm.

In March 2017, the quarterback opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Kaepernick hasn’t been hired by another team since and, in an ongoing lawsuit, is suing the NFL for colluding to keep him unsigned because of his politics. An arbitrator recently threw out the NFL’s request to dismiss the case.

In May 2018, NFL owners approved rules that force players to stand on the sideline or remain in the locker room during the anthem and fine those who do not comply. But according to the Washington Post, the policy is on hold because of disagreements between the league and the NFL Players Association, and ESPN previously reported that nothing will be enacted this season.

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Colin Kaepernick. Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty

When asked whether he was “sensitive” to the reasons behind the protest, Trump pointed out that last year he signed a criminal justice reform bill, the First Step Act, into law.

In addition to overhauling prison sentencing laws, including shortening mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug offenders, the legislation, which was supported by Republicans and Democrats, will also expand early-release programs, according to the New York Times. However, Vox pointed out that the legislation will only help some of the estimated 181,000 people in the federal system.

“I’m the one that had passed judicial reform,” Trump remarked on CBS. “President Obama tried. They all tried. Everybody wanted to do it. And I got it done and I’ve been, you know, really — a lot of people in the NFL have been calling and thanking me for it.”

Trump explained that he believed the protests largely had to “do with reform,” adding, “I took care of that.”

“I think that when you want to protest I think that’s great. But I don’t think you do it at the sake of our flag, at the sake of our national anthem,” he remarked. “I think there are plenty of places and times you can protest and you can do a lot. But you can’t do that. That’s my opinion.”

Trump said during the interview that he would never encourage Barron, his 12-year-old son with First Lady Melania Trump, to take up playing football.

“If he wanted to, yes. Would I steer him that way? No, I wouldn’t,” Mr. Trump remarked, explaining, “I just don’t like the reports that I see coming out having to do with football. I mean it’s a dangerous sport.”

Trump’s comments come amid backlash for the Super Bowl — with many fans and celebrities alike saying they won’t be tuning in.

“I will not be a spectator, viewer or supporter of the #SuperBowl today in protest of the @NFL’s racist treatment of @Kaepernick7 and its ongoing disregard for the health + well-being of all its players,” wrote director Ava DuVernay just hours before kickoff. “To watch the game is to compromise my beliefs. It’s not worth it. #ImWithKap.”

In response, actress Rosanna Arquette added, “Me too.”

Nick Cannon also tweeted out a supportive statement to Kaepernick ahead of the Super Bowl and announced he would be making a donation to the former quarterback’s Know Your Rights Camp, and encouraged his followers to do the same.

In the months leading up to the event, many fans have asked would-be performers to back out of performing at the halftime show, in support of Kaepernick.

Just two days before the big game, rapper Cardi B told the Associated Press that although she had “mixed feelings” about turning down the opportunity to perform at the halftime show, it was important to “stand behind” the athlete.

“My husband [Offset], he loves football. His kids play football. It’s really hard for him… He really wants to go to the Super Bowl, but he can’t go to the Super Bowl, because he’s got to stand for something,” Cardi told the outlet. “You have to sacrifice that. I got to sacrifice a lot of money to perform. But there’s a man who sacrificed his job for us, so we got to stand behind him.”

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Earlier this week, headliners Maroon 5 announced that along with the NFL and Interscope Records, they would be making a $500,000 contribution to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

“Playing the Super Bowl has been a dream of our band for a long time,” frontman Adam Levine told PEOPLE in a statement. “We thank the NFL for the opportunity and also to them, along with Interscope Records, for making this donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters, which will have a major impact for children across the country.”

As part of the NFL’s #InspireChange social justice initiative, their commitment will help to create positive social changes for youth in communities across the country.

Two weeks earlier, fellow halftime performer Travis Scott revealed that he had agreed to sign on for the high-profile event on the condition that the NFL would join him in a joint donation to a charitable cause. In partnership with the league, the “Sicko Mode” rapper will make a $500,000 contribution to Dream Corps, a non-profit organization that champions social justice.

“I back anyone who takes a stand for what they believe in,” Scott previously said in a statement to PEOPLE. “I know being an artist that it’s in my power to inspire. So before confirming the Super Bowl Halftime performance, I made sure to partner with the NFL on this important donation. I am proud to support Dream Corps and the work they do that will hopefully inspire and promote change.”

The New England Patriots will play the Los Angeles Rams at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta in Super Bowl LIII, which airs Sunday at 6:30 ET on CBS.

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