(CNN) — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson said Monday that he is urging President Donald Trump to reconsider his long-held opposition to athletes kneeling during the National Anthem, and Trump could be open to changing his mind.
“Well, I don’t think he has manifested as much animosity in that region lately. And I think we just continue to work him. He’ll get there,” Carson, the only black member of the President’s Cabinet, said during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt when pressed on whether he’s working to persuade Trump on the matter.
The President has long railed against National Football League players and other athletes who have taken a knee during the National Anthem, suggesting multiple times that those athletes should be penalized. NFL players have said the protests, which began in 2016, are intended to draw attention to systemic bias against people of color.
Trump has viewed the issue as a political winner, previously using the protests to fire up his base. He told attendees of a private dinner in 2017: “It’s really caught on. It’s really caught on.”
Carson’s comments come after 20 consecutive days of protests around the country after the death of George Floyd, who was killed in police custody. But Trump has maintained his position in recent weeks, tweeting on June 7 that the act of kneeling is “disrespecting our Country & our Flag.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell conceded earlier this month that the league should have listened to players earlier about racism concerns.
“We the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said. “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” Goodell said.
In response, Trump tweeted over the weekend that he wouldn’t be watching, writing in response to a tweet that US Soccer had lifted a ban on kneeling: “And it looks like the NFL is heading in that direction also, but not with me watching!”
Carson said Monday it was important that Americans understand why athletes are kneeling — as an act of peaceful protest to systemic racism and police brutality
“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.
He added: “And of course, now that that has been brought to national attention, I’m not sure if it needs to continue.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany reiterated the President’s opposition to the kneeling as recently as June 8.
“The President is very much against kneeling in general. The President has made clear for years that kneeling is tied to our National Anthem, that it does not respect our military men and women across this country. He’s not a fan of the kneeling movement. He’s made that very clear, particularly because he thinks it’s disrespectful to our military, as the kneeling originated at the kneeling during the National Anthem,” she said during a press briefing.