Donald Trump threatens to 'change tax law' to penalise NFL over 'take a knee' protests

'Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country?'

Chris Baynes
Tuesday 10 October 2017 12:18 BST
NFL protests: Celebrities 'take a knee' in solidarity against Donald Trump

Donald Trump has criticised NFL clubs for "disrespecting" their country with protests during the national anthem, suggesting they receive "massive tax breaks" and calling for a change to the law to have these removed.

In his latest attack on players peacefully protesting racial inequality, the US president wrote on Twitter: "Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!"

It comes a day after Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a match in which players kneeled, later saying he “will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem”.

Mr Trump later took credit for Mr Pence's protest, seen by some as a publicity stunt, tweeting that he had asked his second-in-command to leave the game between Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers if players protested.

More than 20 members of the 49ers squad kneeled before the game. Colts players wore black t-shirts reading “We Will” on the front and “Stand for equality, justice, unity, respect, dialogue, opportunity” on the back.

A number of NFL players have kneeled during the national anthem as a form of peaceful protest in the past few weeks. Former 49ers player Colin Kaepernick initiated the practice last year, after first sitting out the national anthem in protest at police brutality of black people.

Mr Trump brought renewed attention to the issue last month with a series of tweets criticising the players.

The president said in a campaign rally in September: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired."

The comments caused dozens more NFL players to begin kneeling before games and prompted the league's commissioner, Roger Goodell, to criticise Mr Trump's "divisive" outbursts.

In his latest outburst on the issue on Tuesday morning, the president also took aim an ESPN presenter who was suspended by the network for defending NFL players.

Jemele Hill had urged a boycott of Dallas Cowboys advertisers after the club's owner said players would be dropped if they refused to stand during the national anthem. She was suspended for a "violation of social media guidelines".

Mr Trump wrote: "With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have 'tanked,' in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!"

His tweets on the NFL were separated by digressions onto immigration policy and healthcare reforms.

The NFL was controversially tax-exempt until 2015, when it voluntarily gave up the status.

But tax code loopholes still allow the league's billionaire owners to receive huge public subsidies towards the construction and renovation of stadiums.

Taxpayers have contributed $7 billion (£5.3 billion) to work on NFL stadiums in the past two decades, according to the Franklin Centre for Government and Public Integrity watchdog.

A Republican congressman last month called for changes to tax law in response to NFL players' protests.

"Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that Americans are required to subsidise disrespect for America, or to have their tax dollars wasted on corporate welfare to sports teams," said Florida Representative Matt Gaetz.

He added: "If players want to protest, they have that right - but they should do it on their own time, and on their own dime.”

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