Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said during a radio interview Monday that he would "work with" President Trump on the issue of athletes taking a knee during the national anthem -- which the president has continuously voiced his opposition -- saying, "He’ll get there."
Carson, Trump’s only black cabinet member, said he believes most players are kneeling to protest police brutality rather than to disrespect the flag, but added that players need to make that clear.
"A lot of people are under the impression that they're kneeling because they don't respect our national anthem or they don't respect the flag or what it stands for. And in fact, I don't think that's the reason that most of them are kneeling. I think most of them are kneeling because you know, they want to protest some brutality in the police forces. They need to make that very clear," Carson said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show."
He added: "And of course, now that that has been brought to national attention, I'm not sure if it needs to continue."
Asked whether he might convince the president not to get upset over players kneeling during the anthem, Carson replied: “Well, I don’t think he has manifested as much animosity in that region lately. And I think we just continue to work with him. He’ll get there.”
Trump, however, continued to express his distaste for the form of protest over the weekend, after the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted to repeal a rule requiring its players to stand during the national anthem.
The NFL seemed to follow suit. "We were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. NASCAR also joined in, relaxing rules barring kneeling during the anthem and banning the Confederate flag from its events.
Trump retweeted a tweet from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., saying “I’d rather the US not have a soccer team than have a soccer team that won’t stand for the National Anthem. You shouldn’t get to play under our flag as our national team if you won’t stand when it is raised.”
Trump also quoted a tweet from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, saying “Let me get this straight, UNITED STATES Soccer won’t stand for the UNITED STATES National Anthem?”
“And it looks like the NFL is heading in that direction also, but not with me watching!” the president added.
The issue of kneeling during the national anthem has resurfaced in the wake of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked controversy four years ago when he refused to stand for the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial injustice.
Trump criticized New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in early June for apologizing after previous remarks he made critical of those kneeling during the national anthem.
“I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag,” the president wrote on Twitter.
He also wrote: “OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high … We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!”
Brees told Yahoo Sports on June 3 he “will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
"Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It never has been," Brees later wrote in response to Trump’s criticism on Instagram.
Later on "The Hugh Hewitt Show," Hewitt asked Carson if he believed America was systemically racist. "Of course not," Carson responded.
"I’ve seen systemic racism growing up. I mean, we are so much better than that now. Do we still have racist people? Of course. You know, you’re always going to have people who think superficially and don’t think deeply. But you know, that doesn’t mean that the whole system is corrupted and needs to be changed," the secretary added.