The day after President Trump abruptly canceled the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles’ visit to the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was confronted about whether Trump understands why NFL players began demonstrating during the national anthem during the first place.
“Is the president aware that this was about police-involved shootings, and not about disrespecting the flag?” reporter April Ryan asked Sanders toward the end of Tuesday’s briefing — one in which Sanders repeatedly tried to pin blame for the last-minute cancellation on the Eagles.
“There’s a underlying issue that just keeps going about disrespect of the flag,” Ryan began. “There are black and brown soldiers that fight in the military as well who feel that taking a knee, bringing attention to police-involved shootings, is something this White House should deal with. Is the president aware that taking a knee is about police-involved shootings?”
Sanders got testy.
“The president has made his position crystal clear,” Sanders said. Ryan then tried to interject, but Sanders admonished her.
“I let you rudely interrupt me and your colleague, I’m going to ask that you allow me to finish my answer,” she said. “I would be happy to answer if you would stop talking long enough to let me do that.”
Sanders immediately pivoted to talking about why Trump thinks it’s important to stand for the national anthem — ignoring that not a single Eagles player kneeled for it during the 2017 season — while completely ignoring Ryan’s question.
“The president has made his position crystal clear on this topic,” Sanders said. “He feels strongly that standing for our national anthem is something that we should do, something that matters to what makes our country special and unique and what sets us apart. He’s not going to waver on that, he’s not going to apologize for it, and frankly, more than 70 percent of Americans agree with him on that matter. If you go back to what the original intent was, this has been made a political argument, of which the president is not going to back down from, and he’s been clear on it.”
Sanders ignored Ryan’s subsequent attempts to ask whether Trump acknowledges the problem with police-involved shootings of black people, and moved on to another reporter.
Shortly after the briefing ended, the White House held the “Celebration for America” that took place instead of the previously scheduled event with the Eagles. During it, Trump appeared to struggle with the lyrics to “Good Bless America.”
Tuesday wasn’t the first time Ryan has flummoxed Sanders with a question about Trump’s response (or lack thereof) to police shootings of black people.
In March, Ryan asked Sanders if Trump had anything to say about news that two white Baton Rouge police officers who shot and killed a black man named Alton Sterling while he was pinned down would not be charged. Sanders replied with a word salad about how the Sterling case was “a local matter and something that we feel should be left up to the local authorities at this point in time.”
Asked later during that briefing about Trump’s lack of leadership on the issue of tensions between police and communities of color, Sanders quickly changed the topic to how Trump wants to “grow the economy for everybody.”