US President Donald Trump thanked America’s service members ahead of the Super Bowl and reminded the country of his opposition to NFL players who kneel during the national anthem. “We owe these heroes the greatest respect for defending our liberty and our American way of life,” Trump said in a statement released by the White House on Sunday. “Their sacrifice is stitched into each star and every stripe of our Star-Spangled Banner. We hold them in our hearts and thank them for our freedom as we proudly stand for the National Anthem.” In 2017, Trump made political hay by needling the NFL over players who knelt during the national anthem as a sign of protest and to call attention to racial injustice in America, reports Politico. Many viewed the President’s comments as racially charged. Sunday’s Super Bowl pits the New England Patriots against the Philadelphia Eagles.
No players were expected to kneel during the anthem at the game. Trump already eschewed one Super Bowl tradition by declining to grant an interview to NBC, which broadcasts the game. Trump gave an interview to then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in 2016, when Fox broadcast the big game.