Trump on NFL protesters: 'Maybe they shouldn't be in the country'

You knew this was coming: President Donald Trump, whose fiery comments on NFL protesters last year inflamed his populist base, gloated Thursday morning about new rules that sharply restrict pregame protests.

Speaking to Fox & Friends’ Brian Kilmeade, Trump expressed satisfaction that NFL owners “did the right thing” by requiring players on the field to stand.

“I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good,” he said. “You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem. You shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe they shouldn’t be in the country.”

“Throw the ungrateful protesters out of the country” is a red-meat take that’ll play well with the angry base, but it’s one that doesn’t even stand up to the most basic examination of American freedoms.  Granted, the president has a habit of cranking every hot take up to 11, and this one does nothing but pour rocket fuel on the protest controversy’s smoldering fire.

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NFL players who have switched teams this offseason

QB Kirk Cousins

Former team: Washington Redskins
2018 team: Minnesota Vikings

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

WR Willie Snead

Former team: New Orleans Saints
2018 team: Baltimore Ravens

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

CB Malcolm Butler

Former team: New England Patriots
2018 team: Tennessee Titans

(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CB Richard Sherman

Former team: Seattle Seahawks
2018 team: San Francisco 49ers

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

WR Sammy Watkins

Former team: Los Angeles Rams
2018 team: Kansas City Chiefs

(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

TE Jimmy Graham

Former team: Seattle Seahawks
2018 team: Green Bay Packers

(Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

QB Case Keenum

Former team: Minnesota Vikings
2018 team: Denver Broncos

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

DE Michael Bennett

Former team: Seattle Seahawks
2018 team: Philadelphia Eagles

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr /Getty Images)

QB Tyrod Taylor

Former team: Buffalo Bills
2018 team: Cleveland Browns

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

QB Sam Bradford

Former team: Minnesota Vikings
2018 team: Arizona Cardinals

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

WR Danny Amendola

Former team: New England Patriots
2018 team: Miami Dolphins

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

WR Jarvis Landry

Former team: Miami Dolphins
2018 team: Cleveland Browns

(Photo by Richard C. Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

WR Torrey Smith

Former team: Philadelphia Eagles
2018 team: Carolina Panthers

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

WR Paul Richardson

Former team: Seattle Seahawks
2018 team: Washington Redskins

(Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

FS Kurt Coleman

Former team: Carolina Panthers
2018 team: New Orleans Saints

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

DT Haloti Ngata

Former team: Detroit Lions
2018 team: Philadelphia Eagles

(Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

LB Anthony Hitchens

Former team: Dallas Cowboys
2018 team: Kansas City Chiefs

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

DT Star Lotulelei

Former team: Carolina Panthers
2018 team: Buffalo Bills

(Photos by Frank Mattia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

RB Jonathan Stewart

Former team: Carolina Panthers
2018 team: New York Giants

(Photo by Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

RB Isaiah Crowell

Former team: Cleveland Browns
2018 team: New York Jets

(Photo by Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports)

QB Teddy Bridgewater

Former team: Minnesota Vikings
2018 team: New York Jets

(Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

DT Muhammad Wilkerson

Former team: New York Jets
2018 team: Green Bay Packers

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

RB Dion Lewis

Former team: New England Patriots
2018 team: Tennessee Titans

(Photo by Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

G Andrew Norwell

Former team: Carolina Panthers
2018 team: Jacksonville Jaguars

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

RB Carlos Hyde

Former team: San Francisco 49ers
2018 team: Cleveland Browns

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

CB Trumaine Johnson

Former team: Los Angeles Rams
2018 team: New York Jets

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

CB Bashaud Breeland

Former team: Washington Redskins
2018 team: Carolina Panthers

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

OT Nate Solder

Former team: New England Patriots
2018 team: New York Giants

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

QB Trevor Siemian

Former team: Denver Broncos
2018 team: Minnesota Vikings

(Photo by Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports)

WR Jordy Nelson

Former team: Green Bay Packers
2018 team: Oakland Raiders

(Photo by Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

RB Doug Martin

Former team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2018 team: Oakland Raiders

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

CB Jason McCourty

Former team: Cleveland Browns
2018 team: New England Patriots

(Photo by: 2017 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

DT Dontari Poe

Former team: Atlanta Falcons
2018 team: Carolina Panthers

(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

G Josh Sitton

Former team: Chicago Bears
2018 team: Miami Dolphins

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

C Ryan Jensen

Former team: Baltimore Ravens
2018 team: Miami Dolphins

(Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

CB Tyrann Mathieu

Former team: Arizona Cardinals
2018 team: Houston Texans

(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

WR/KR/PR Cordarrelle Patterson

Former team: Oakland Raiders
2018 team: New England Patriots

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

G Justin Pugh

Former team: New York Giants
2018 team: Arizona Cardinals

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

C Mike Pouncey

Former team: Miami Dolphins
2018 team: Los Angeles Chargers

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CB Orlando Scandrick

Former team: Dallas Cowboys
2018 team: Washington Redskins

(Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

DE Vinny Curry

Former team: Philadelphia Eagles
2018 team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

WR Michael Crabtree

Former team: Oakland Raiders
2018 team: Baltimore Ravens

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

DT Sheldon Richardson

Former team: Seattle Seahawks
2018 team: Minnesota Vikings

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CB/S Morgan Burnett

Former team: Green Bay Packers
2018 team: Pittsburgh Steelers

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

WR Danny Amendola

Former team: New England Patriots
2018 team: Miami Dolphins

(Photo by Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

DT Ndamukong Suh

Former team: Miami Dolphins
2018 team: Los Angeles Rams

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

WR Brandin Cooks

Former team: New England Patriots
2018 team: Los Angeles Rams

(Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

WR Jordan Matthews

Former team: Buffalo Bills
2018 team: New England Patriots

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

RB C.J. Anderson

Former team: Denver Broncos
2018 team: Carolina Panthers

(Photo by Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

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Forcing people to respect the flag isn’t generally an American value, and threatening, however absurdly, to throw someone out of the country for voicing their opinion — yes, even while on the job — is un-American on its face. The president’s words inflamed the controversy last season, and this time around, they’re likely to have the same effect.

The NFL crafted this policy in part to appease Trump and avoid any critical tweets. In so doing, the league has managed to get its entire workforce disrespected in front of the country. That’s not going to play well in the locker rooms of the league, and not among a sizable contingent of the stands, either.

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