President Donald Trump, in a rare display of modesty, refused to accept credit for a newly enacted ban on NFL player protests — but team owners admit he pressured them into the controversial policy.
Players will not be allowed to protest during the national anthem under the new policy, although they may remain in the locker room, after Trump and some fans complained about silent demonstrations against racism and police brutality.
"I think the people pushed this forward, this was not me," Trump told "Fox & Friends" on Thursday morning. "I brought it out, I think the people pushed it forward. This country's very smart, we have very smart people. That's something (that) ideally could have been taken care after it first started, it would have been a lot easier, but if they did that, they're doing the right thing."
However, team officials admit they banned player protests to appease Trump, reported Sports Illustrated.
"Oh yeah," said Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy. "It was more how [Trump] might react, anticipating that. Also, how the fans will react, how the media will react. That's what we tried to think through."
"No matter what we did, [Trump] would probably try to get involved one way or the other — either criticizing us or taking credit for the change," he added.
The president told Fox News that he didn't think the policy went far enough, saying that players should not be allowed to remain in the locker room — and he suggested that citizenship was conditional.
"You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there," Trump said. "Maybe you shouldn't be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, and the NFL owners have done the right thing, if that's what they've done."
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted Trump's name came up during discussion on the protest ban.
"[Trump] certainly initiated some of the thinking, and was a part of the entire picture," Jones said. "But all of that was given consideration."
San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York, who abstained from voting on the policy, said league officials enacted the ban because vocal fans complained about the protests.
"At the end of the day, we are an entertainment property," York said. "You tune into football on Sunday or Monday or Thursday to get away from everything else. And I think people have had enough of the political fights. I think people do want to get back to football. But our players also have the ability, and the right to champion their causes and bring attention to those causes."