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President Donald Trump thanked U.S. military members in a statement released a few hours before the Super Bowl on Sunday afternoon.
Trump’s statement also spoke about why Americans “proudly stand for the national anthem” — a possible nod to players who have kneeled or raised a fist during the anthem as a means of protesting racial inequality and police brutality.
“As many Americans come together to watch the Super Bowl, Melania and I extend our greetings and appreciation for those who make occasions like this possible, particularly the brave men and women of our Armed Forces,” Trump wrote in the statement released by the White House.
“Though many of our Nation’s service members are unable to be home with family and friends to enjoy this evening’s American tradition, they are always in our thoughts and prayers. We owe these heroes the greatest respect for defending our liberty and our American way of life. Their sacrifice is stitched into each star and every stripe of our Star-Spangled Banner. We hold them in our hearts and thank them for our freedom as we proudly stand for the National Anthem.
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“We send our best wishes for an enjoyable Super Bowl Sunday. May God bless and protect our troops, and may He continue to bless the United States of America.”
Trump has repeatedly criticized the NFL, its players and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, for the protests during the anthem, which originated with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last year. The president even used an expletive at a September rally to describe protesting players, which prompted a significant backlash from players the following weekend.
The Associated Press reported that Trump would spend this weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. When asked by a reporter Friday if he had a prediction for Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, the president said, “I better not get involved.”
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