US Sports stars round on US president

By Elliot Bullman

US President Donald Trump is facing growing condemnation from the sports world after his criticism of players at a rally on Friday night.

On Friday, Mr Trump said the National Football League (NFL) should fire players who protest during the US anthem. Hours before Sunday's games, Mr Trumpurged fans to boycott gamesas a way of making change "take place fast".

trump sports

Top football players have attacked Mr Trump in response.

What did Mr Trump say?

Donald Trump spoke for nearly an hour and a half at his rally in Alabama on Friday. The audience of 10,000 was enthusiastic, but one of his biggest applause lines - outside of swipes at North Korea and Hillary Clinton - was when the president took aim at any "son of a bitch" in the NFL who protests during the national anthem should be fired by their team.


He was referring to a controversial string of protests started by player Colin Kaepernick last year when he sat or kneeled during the anthem to highlight the treatment of black Americans.

On Saturday morning the president took to Twitter to fire off line after line attacking the NFL - and athletes in any sport who may have taken issue with his earlier comments.



How did the NFL respond?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement saying "divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect".


President Trump, however, doubled down on his comments in a tweet.


The NFL Players' Association said the president had crossed a line by effectively telling players to just "shut up and play".

Association president Eric Winston said Mr Trump's comments were "a slap in the face to the civil rights heroes of the past and present".


Who else has joined in the criticism?

On Saturday night, the Oakland Athletics'Bruce Maxwellbecame the first Major League Baseball player to kneel in protest during the national anthem, mimicking the gesture of protest started by Colin Kaepernick. His father is in the military and he was born on an army base, US media report. Hetold a reporterhe was "kneeling for people that don't have a voice".


On Saturday, Mr Trump withdrew an invitation to the White House to basketball champions the Golden State Warriors after one player,Stephen Curry, said he did not want to attend.

Curry - NBA's top performer in 2015 - said he wanted to show that he and other players did not stand for "the things that he's said and the things that he hasn't said in the right times".

Mr Trump tweeted this afterwards:


In response, triple NBA championLeBron James, one of the sport's foremost stars, labelled the President a "bum".

"Going to White House was an honour until you showed up," he said. Retired starKobe Bryantalso tweeted his support.


Separately, 2017 college basketball champions the North Carolina Tar Heels announced they, too, would not be going to the White House to celebrate their victory, despite being invited.

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