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Paul Ryan says national anthem ‘should be celebrated everywhere and always’

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that while he respects the right of professional athletes to express themselves “how they see fit,” he does not believe they should sit or kneel during the national anthem.

“Look, people are clearly within their rights to express themselves how they see fit. My own view, though, is we shouldn’t do it in the anthem,” Ryan said during a news conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday, aligning himself with President Trump on the issue.

During a campaign rally for Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama on Friday, Trump urged NFL team owners to fire players who “disrespect” the U.S. flag.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now?'” Trump said. His comments drew chants of “USA!” from the crowd.

“You know, some owner … is going to say, ‘That guy who disrespects our flag, he’s fired,'” Trump continued.

But as popular as Trump’s comments were among the crowd in Alabama, his comments have stoked controversy across the country. Hundreds of players, owners, and teams peacefully protested during the national anthem at last weekend’s games, far more than any other display to date.

Ryan, who counts himself as a co-owner of the Green Bay Packers, expressed his disapproval of players who have refused to stand during the anthem, many of whom are protesting police brutality and racial inequality.

“The national anthem, our flag and the people who defend it and represent it – that should be celebrated everywhere and always, and that’s my opinion,” Ryan said Tuesday.

Three Packers players –- Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks, and Kevin King –- sat on the bench during the anthem before Sunday’s overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals.

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