President Donald Trump took partial credit for NFL television ratings going up during the current season, telling Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan that NFL ratings are better because players “haven’t been kneeling and they have been respecting the flag.”
In the Super Bowl Sunday interview, he also mentioned that people such as Colin Kaepernick, who started the practice of kneeling during the national anthem to call attention to police brutality against African Americans, would be happy that criminal justice reform was passed under his administration.
Trump: Players Have Been Respecting the Flag & Their Ratings Have Been ‘Terrific’
President Trump sat down with Margaret Brennan on February 1, with portions of the interview scheduled to air during Face the Nation at 10:30 a.m and the Super Bowl pregame show at 3:30 p.m. CBS News released transcripts of their conversation hours before the broadcast.
President Trump has been very critical about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. He has encouraged fans to leave the stadiums if they see players kneeling, and for owners to fire players who refuse to stand.
Brennan asked the president whether he feels players like Colin Kaepernick “had a point” in terms of the issue of police brutality. The president answered:
“Well, you know, I’m the one that had passed judicial reform. And if you look at what I did, criminal judicial reform, and what I’ve done- President Obama tried. They all tried. Everybody wanted to do it. And I got it done and I’ve been, you know, really- a lot of people in the NFL have been calling and thanking me for it… They have been calling and thanking, you know, that people have been trying to get that taken care of and it’s now signed into law and affects tremendous numbers of people, and very good people. I think that when you want to protest I think that’s great. But I don’t think you do it at the sake of our flag, at the sake of our national anthem. Absolutely.”
Brennan pressed him on the motivation behind the protest. President Trump responded again that he had taken care of judicial reform and that “a lot of it had to do with that.” He then repeated his stance that all Americans should “respect our flag and at all times respect our net- our- our national anthem and our country. And I think there are plenty of places and times you can protest and you can do a lot. But you can’t do that. That’s my opinion.”
Trump Said a Trade Agreement With Mexico & Canda Benefits the NFL; He Added That He Has a ‘Very Good Relationship’ With Commissioner Roger Goodell
During the wide-ranging interview, President Trump connected trade negotiations with Mexico and Canada to the NFL. He argued that the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, which would replace NAFTA, benefits the league.
“I said to Canada, look we have a great American company known as the NFL, and they were being hurt and treated unfairly, the NFL, by Canada for a long time. And I said to Prime Minister Trudeau, who was very nice about it and really understood it, I hope you can settle the difference immediately and fast. And they did. So I did the NFL a big favor, as a great American company and they appreciated it. And Roger Goodell, this is a dispute that has gone on for years. Roger Goodell called me and he thanked me. And I appreciated that. But they haven’t been kneeling and they have been respecting the flag and their ratings have been terrific ever since. And a lot of good things happened.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did release a public statement in October of 2018 praising President Trump. “We greatly appreciate President Trump’s leadership and determination in bringing about a resolution to our intellectual property issue in Canada.”
President Trump said he has a “very good relationship” with Goodell, despite the president’s prior criticism of how the league chose to deal with players who either kneeled, linked arms or raised fists during the national anthem.
The NFL Saw Ratings Improve in 2018 After a Two-Year Decline
The National Football League did see higher numbers during the 2018 season. The league reported that viewership was up 5 percent compared to 2017. Each game averaged nearly 16 million viewers. The league also found that digital streaming viewership increased 86 percent across all games.