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Trump says NFL team owners "afraid" of their players

President Trump is not letting up on the NFL -- he suggested team owners are reluctant to address player's' silent protest of kneeling during the national anthem because they're "afraid" of their players. 

"Well, I have so many friends that are owners.  And they're in a box. I mean I've spoken to a couple of them. They say, we are in a situation where we have to do something. I think they're afraid of their players, you want to know the truth.  And I think it's disgraceful," Mr. Trump said in an interview with FOX News Channel's FOX & Friends that aired Thursday morning. 

He went on to excoriate the NFL, repeating his claims that they're suffering low ratings. 

"The ratings are going way down.  The stadiums are -- I've seen a couple of stadiums over the last few weeks.  They are losing -- there are a lot of empty seats.  I couldn't even believe it," he added. 

White House playing defense after Trump's comments on the NFL

While the president told Fox News that "most people agree" with him in his position of calling the protests "disgraceful" to the American flag and anthem, he asserted that the issue was not a distraction to his overall agenda. 

"It's not a distraction at all, because, you know, first of all, I'm doing a lot.  As you know, we've passed over 50 pieces of legislation.  We have a Supreme Court judge.  We have a much stronger military.  We have strong borders now.  We're going to get the wall.  We're going to get all the things that we said," the president said.

Mr. Trump also repeated his call for a new rule forcing players to stand while the national anthem played.

"They have rules for everything. Why aren't they honoring this country by enforcing a rule that's been in existence for a long time? So the NFL and the players really have to do the honor of the country.  It's for the honor of the country.  They have to respect our country.  They have to respect our flag and our anthem."

The White House has since defended Mr. Trump's continued statements, with White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling reporters last week that it's "always appropriate for the president of the United States to defend our flag, to defend the national anthem and to the defend the men and women who fought and died to defend it."

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