The debate over taking a knee during the national anthem is a distraction from "what's really happening" in the U.S., former NBA commissioner David Stern told CNBC on Wednesday.
Some NFL players, sparked by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have been kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to race relations.
President Donald Trump has fired back at these protests, labeling them a "total disrespect for our great country," among other things, and has called publicly for the firing or suspending of such players.
"This whole thing is a distraction," Stern said on CNBC's "Power Lunch." "And what it's distracting from is the fact that Puerto Rico is ravaged, we've got a horrible situation with fire [in California] and flood [in Puerto Rico], and we've got our national parks that are being opened up to drilling and to mining and to commercial exploitation."
"Everyone takes the bait of the president throwing this junk out to distract them from what's really happening in this country," he said. "The country is in a dire state, and we're here talking about a football player that took a knee. … It's a nonissue except for the president's tweets."
If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect....
...our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!
Stern isn't the only one who disagrees with the President.
According to the third-quarter CNBC All-American Economic Survey, Americans by a 2-to-1 margin say NFL players should not be fired or suspended when they kneel during the national anthem.
Micah Roberts of Public Opinion Strategies, who serves as the Republican pollster, noted that half of Trump's own supporters disagree with his stance.
During a public appearance in England, Hillary Clinton also reportedly defended the players' right to demonstrate against racial injustice, saying their action does not go against the national anthem or the American flag.
The NFL has decided it will not stop its players from kneeling during the national anthem, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday.