Republican mayoral hopeful Nicole Malliotakis sided with President Donald Trump on Sunday, saying he was justified in calling on the NFL to “fire or fine” football players who have protested the national anthem during games.
“President Trump is right; the NFL should fire or fine those who disrespect both our flag and the millions of fans who ultimately pay their salaries,” Malliotakis said in a statement emailed out by her campaign Sunday afternoon.
The statement came hours after players from across the National Football League took to the field and locked arms in solidarity during the performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in response to controversial remarks made by Trump in recent days denouncing athletes who have protested during the national anthem by taking a knee.
Since last football season, dozens of athletes have demonstrated during the national anthem, either by kneeling or raising a clenched fist in the air, to protest the killing of black civilians by law enforcement officers.
The handful of players resumed the protests at the start of this year’s football season, spurring Trump, in a speech to supporters in Alabama on Friday, to say he would “love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.”
The president’s remarks prompted several team owners, including those of the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams, to issue statements in support of their players, noting they had the right to freely express themselves.
Malliotakis, a state assemblywoman from Staten Island who in recent weeks has sought to distance herself from Trump as she wages a campaign against Democratic incumbent Bill de Blasio, said in her statement that “thanks to our men and women in the military, NFL players have the right to express their personal political views anywhere; except for in their workplace — the football field.”
“It would not be tolerated if your doctor or dry cleaner lectured you on their political beliefs every time you walked through their door or if your child’s teacher knelt or stepped out of the classroom during the Pledge of Allegiance,” Malliotakis said in the statement.
Asked about Malliotakis’ statement, De Blasio’s campaign spokeswoman Monica Klein said via email: “No, Trump is NOT right.”
In August, the mayor expressed support for dozens of off-duty NYPD officers who held a rally in support of NFL free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who initiated the player protest last football season.
“They’re citizens, off-duty, and have a right to express their opinions,” de Blasio said of the cops. “And when they go on duty their political opinions are put aside, and they serve everyone without any bias or political judgment.”