Mnuchin: NFL players 'can do free speech on their own time'

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Minutes after the first NFL game of the day started, showing multiple players kneeling during the national anthem following President Donald Trump's continued attacks on pro athletes protesting, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin defended the president's comments.

Late Saturday, Trump tweeted a reference to a speech earlier in the day by North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho. "This is a job, and the employers have the right, when the players are working, to have rules".

"The NFL has all different types of rules", noted Mnuchin, a former investment banker and Hollywood producer.

He continued, "This isn't about Democrats, it's not about Republicans, it's not about race, it's not about free speech". "You can't have stickers on your helmets". You have to have your jerseys tucked in. "So the National Football League is picking and choosing what they want to enforce".

When asked why Trump was choosing to take on this particular fight, Mnuchin said Sunday: "Again, you know, for as long as I can remember, people have stood in honor of our country; this isn't about politics".

President Trump's rhetoric sparked a backlash from National Football League players as they protested several games on Sunday. "We respect [our players'] demonstration and support them 100 percent", he said. "It has never been about disrespecting the flag".

Last year, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during "The Star-Spangled Banner" ahead of kickoff, sparking both support and backlash.

Queried by ABC interviewer Martha Raddatz about whether the president's bellicose language was causing the public to question his ability to deal effectively with North Korea, Mnuchin replied: "I can assure you, the president's No. 1 priority is the safety of the American people and our allies". "I think the issue is the topic, and the topic, I agree with the president".

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