Donald Trump has said that he is “so proud” of Nascar after reports suggested that the American motorsport will sack any individual who protests against the national anthem in the wake of the widespread NFL ‘Take a Knee’ gestures.
President Trump is facing a large backlash over comments he made last week that claimed American football players should be fired if they kneel down during the American national anthem, a gesture that was started by ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaeperknick to protest against police brutality and racial inequality that has been adopted by a number of fellow players.
Three teams – the Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers – elected to remain in the stadium tunnel ahead of their matches on Sunday in a further protest against Trump’s recent comments, but many team owners in Nascar suggesting that they will fire drivers who refuse to respect the national anthem, with Trump supporting them.
“So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans,” tweeted Mr Trump. “They won't put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag - they said it loud and clear!”
“Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total). These are fans who demand respect for our Flag!
“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”
Mr Trump’s comments came after a number of Nascar team owners confirmed reports that they would sack drivers or team personnel if they refuse to stand for the national anthem. No protests took place at Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motorspeedway, but both Richard Childress and Richard Petty, two legends of the sport, confirmed that they would not allow it.
"Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in,” Mr Childress said. “So many people gave their lives for it. This is America." He also added that any member of his team seen protesting against the anthem should be warned that “it’ll get you a ride on a greyhound bus”.
Petty, the most accomplished driver in Nascar history with the most wins and poles of any driver, said: "Anybody that don't stand up for the anthem ought to be out of the country. Period. What got 'em where they're at? The United States."
A third team owner, Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls as coach of the Washington Redskins, added: “So much has been sacrificed for our country and our flag. It's a big deal for us to honour America. I'm proud of the way we've represented ourselves, and I'm proud of this sport, too. I think this sport has a certain way they look at things. I really appreciate that.”
However, Chip Ganassi, who runs teams in both Nascar and IndyCar, echoed Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin after he allowed his players to take their own stance and not allow it detract from the aim of winning their encounter against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
The Steelers remained in the tunnel except for ex- army serviceman Alejandro Villanueva, who stood in front of it with his hand across his heart. Ganassi said that he supported head coach Tomlin’s stance, with the American football coach noting: “We're not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.”
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