W.H.'s Marc Short defends Trump's NFL comments; Sen. Gardner calls for focus

Trump attacks on the NFL

Following President Trump's suggestion that NFL team owners fire players who kneel during the national anthem, the White House stood by his comments, saying he's "raising attention" to an issue of disrespect.

White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short said Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation" that Mr. Trump has made a case that "there are coaches across this country, at high-school level, who are penalized and disciplined for leading their players in prayer. And yet, you see an issue in the NFL where the media champions those who are taking a knee to disrespect the American flag."

"That is a dichotomy that most Americans can't understand and for good reason," he added.

Short went on to say the president has made the case that the sidelines of an NFL game is "not the appropriate place to raise your social activism."

"I think he's made the case that you have a First-Amendment right, if you wish, to protest the flag. But owners have a First-Amendment right, as well. They have the First-Amendment right to fire those players, if they so choose," Short added. 

NFL coaches are listening to their players

At a campaign rally for Alabama Sen. Luther Strange on Friday, Mr. Trump said to loud applause "wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out! He's fired." 

Athletes in the NFL and NBA criticized Mr. Trump, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell weighed in, saying "divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities." 

A growing list of NFL team owners have since spoken out against Mr. Trump's comments, standing behind their players.

Even well-known Trump supporter Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, came down against the president's comments, saying that he was "deeply disappointed" by Mr. Trump's tone, and instead touted his players' efforts for bringing people together to "make our community stronger."

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Cory Gardner said the attention instead needs to remain on the issues that pose a serious threat to the United States.

"When it comes to this recent spat with the NFL, look, there are far more important things that we ought to be focusing on," Gardner said on "Face the Nation" Sunday.

He added, "North Korea, Iran, concern about the health care bill. That's what I'm going to continue to focus on, making sure that we take care of this country's needs in a way that people know they're better off."

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    Emily Tillett is the digital producer at "Face the Nation"