While welcoming 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. and his team to the White House Monday, President Trump praised NASCAR drivers for standing during the playing of the national anthem.
"And I will tell you one thing I know about NASCAR: They do indeed, Brian, stand for the playing of the national anthem, right?" the president said from the South Lawn. "They do indeed."
Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized the NFL and its players who kneel during the pre-game national anthem as an act of silent protest. He acknowledged the potential controversy of his comments Monday.
"Somebody said 'maybe you shouldn't say that, it'll be controversial' and I said 'that's okay, NASCAR's not going to mind it at all.' Right fellas? They don't mind it at all," Mr. Trump said.
The kneeling among NFL players started when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling to protest . As a result, players across the NFL began following suit and kneeling ahead of their own games in the face of critics who called the move unpatriotic.
In the Fall, Vice President Mike Pencean Indianapolis Colts game when several players on the opposing San Francisco 49ers knelt for the national anthem.
Truex, who drives for the Furniture Row Racing team, finished in 17th place in Saturday's NASCAR All-Star Race. He's the first NASCAR champion welcomed to the White House under Mr. Trump's leadership -- seven-time NASCAR winner Jimmie Johnson did not visit after his 2016 win due to scheduling conflicts on both sides.
"This lively sport reflects our national spirit and our can-do attitude," Mr. Trump said, emphasizing NASCAR's southern roots. "At every NASCAR race you will see thousands of patriotic Americans from the grandstands to the pit stalls proudly waving our flag and roaring with joy at the words 'start your engines.'"