WATCH: Donald Trump on Players Who Kneel: ‘Maybe They Shouldn’t Be In the Country’

That escalated quickly.

President Donald Trump praised the NFL after its owners unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that would require players to stand if they are on the field during the performance. He also suggested that perhaps players who refuse to stand for the anthem “shouldn’t be in the country.”

“You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem and the NFL owners did the right thing if that’s what they’ve done,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News that aired earlier this morning.

“You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem or you shouldn’t be playing. You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country,” Trump added.

Asked if his criticisms of players who kneel during the national anthem prompted the NFL to change its rules, the president credited “the people” rather than himself.

“I think the people pushed it forward. This was not me. I brought it out. I think the people pushed this forward,” Trump said. “This country is very smart. We have very smart people.”

The president also accused Democrats of defending violent gang members, launching into yet another appeal against immigration laws he believes are endangering the nation.

“The Democrats are sticking up for MS-13. You heard [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi the other day, like, trying to find all sorts of reasons why they should be able to stay. These are stone cold killers — vicious killers,” Trump said.

The president’s comments quickly garnered criticism.

Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake skewered the president’s comments, bringing up last week’s report that the president analogized illegal immigrants whom he claimed are part of gangs to animals during a meeting with California officials who oppose the state’s position on sanctuary cities.

“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them. And we’re taking people out of the country, you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals,” Trump said at the time. “And we’re taking them out of the country at a level, at a rate, that’s never happened before.”

More than one social media user brought up comments the president made about white supremacists last year.

In August 2017, the president sparked outrage after he spread the blame for the violence which had erupted the previous weekend at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it, and you have- You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” the president said during a news conference in front of Trump Tower. “And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group, you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.”

He continued: “What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, at the ‘alt-right?’ Do they have any semblance of guilt? … I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it, and you have- You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group, you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.”

Trump’s first official statement on the demonstration––which resulted in three deaths and injuries of numerous others––came three days after it first began. He spoke after meeting with newly installed FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and acknowledged that the Justice Department had opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed after she was struck by a Dodge Challenger driven by James Alex Fields, who had traveled to the city from Ohio to protest at the rally with fellow white nationalists.

The president’s latest interview spotlighted his authoritarian leanings and his use of “the language of a dictator,” wrote advocate Amy Siskind.

https://twitter.com/Amy_Siskind/status/999635715964260352

The NFL’s rule change, which was announced yesterday, states that if players do not stand, their team will face fines.

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