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GOP senator: NFL players should stand and 'show their respect' during the national anthem

  • NFL players and other professional athletes should stand for the national anthem, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey says.
  • President Donald Trump has been tweeting since the weekend about the issue, saying players who don't stand should be fired.
  • "This country has offered so many millions of people so many wonderful opportunities," Toomey says.

NFL players and other professional athletes should stand for the national anthem to show their respect for the Americans who make sacrifices to help keep the U.S. safe, secure, and prosperous, Sen. Pat Toomey told CNBC on Wednesday.

"They have every right to protest as they see fit. But I think it's totally inappropriate. What they ought to do is show their respect for the people who helped secure the country that they have," the Pennsylvania Republican said.

Asked his opinion about the polarizing player protests of taking a knee during "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games, Toomey said he believes "they ought to be standing," siding with President Donald Trump who's been tweeting since the weekend about the issue, saying players who don't stand should be fired.

On Monday Night Football, the Cowboys, including owner Jerry Jones, knelt before the national anthem in solidarity with the hundreds of players who took a knee over the weekend. But when the anthem started, the players on Dallas and the Arizona Cardinals were standing arm in arm. Jones has been vocal in the past against protesting during the anthem.

Toomey said in a "Squawk Box" interview, "This country has offered so many millions of people so many wonderful opportunities; and quite especially, the players on the field who are multimillionaires because they're really good at playing a game."

Pennsylvania, Toomey's state, is one of a handful of states that have two NFL franchises: the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Alejandro Villanueva #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stands by himself in the tunnel for the national anthem prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.
Getty Images
Alejandro Villanueva #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stands by himself in the tunnel for the national anthem prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

All of the Steelers stayed in the locker room during the national anthem on Sunday except for left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan. Villanueva stood outside the tunnel with his hand over his heart during the anthem.

The Eagles on Sunday — players, coaches, executives and owner Jeffrey Lurie — locked arms during the anthem.

The kneeling protests started last season when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first knelt to protest police brutality and racial injustice. Kaepernick opted out of his contract in March. He's a free agent, but has not been signed.

Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, told CNBC in a separate interview on Wednesday NFL players should not protest during the national anthem.

"Every man, woman, child in this country should stand for the national anthem. That should go without question," the South Carolina senator said.

While he does not agree with the form of the protest, Senator Scott said Americans should ask themselves why the players are kneeling.

WATCH: Sen. Tim Scott: 'We should all seek for unity and equality in this nation'

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