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US President Donald Trump (C) waves as he arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, on September 26, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
US President Donald Trump has intensified his criticism of NFL players who took a knee during renditions of the national anthem.
American football players across the US and in London, including members of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens, knelt in a powerful display of unity during games on Sunday.
Trump called the protesters “disgraceful” and claimed they blatantly disrespected veterans who fought for the flag and country.
“I don’t think you can disrespect our country, our flag, our national anthem,” Trump said at a Rose Garden press conference on Tuesday.
“They were fighting for our country, they were fighting for our flag, they were fighting for our national anthem,” he said, referring to injured soldiers he visited at Walter Reed. “For people to disrespect that by kneeling during the playing of our national anthem I think is disgraceful.”
Meanwhile, Richard Allen Smith, an Afghanistan war veteran, told MSNBC in an interview, “I didn’t fight for any flag or anthem and I don’t know anybody that did fight for a flag or anthem.”
Trump “is a man who has no capacity for shame, he’s a serial sexual predator and a bigot,” he said, adding,  he was "just ashamed that this is our president.”
Jacksonville Jaguar players show their protest during the National Anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Getty Images)
Trump has called on NFL owners to sack the mostly black players who staged the protest. He also asked fans to boycott NFL games to increase pressure on the league to fire or suspend those players.
"If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast," Trump wrote. "Fire or suspend!"
NFL teams whose owners or CEOs have voiced their support of players’ free expression included the New England Patriots, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks.
The row began on Friday at a Republican political rally in Alabama when Trump described activist NFL players -- mostly African Americans -- as "sons of b****es" who should lose their job for not standing during renditions of the national anthem.
The protests are aimed at drawing more attention to police violence against minorities in America following a spate of deadly police shootings of black men.
They began last year when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the anthem to protest racial injustice.

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