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

Steven Mnuchin is an American banker, film producer, and former hedge fund manager who is the 77th and current United States Secretary of the Treasury under the Trump administration., Photo Date: 2/13/17 Source: United States Department of the Treasury

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) -- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin responded to player protests happening across the NFL on Sunday by saying players "can do free speech on their own time."

During two nationally-televised appearances, Mnuchin suggested that NFL owners set up a rule requiring players to stand during the national anthem. Mnuchin also pointed out that the President's stance was solely about respect for the military, first responders and the country.

"The NFL has all different types of all rules. You can't have stickers on your helmet, you have to have your jerseys tucked in. I think what the President is saying is that the owners should have a rule that players should have to stand in respect for the national anthem," Mnuchin said.

The Secretary continued saying, "this isn't about Democrats, it's not about Republicans, it's not about race, it's not about free speech. They can do free speech on their own time. This is about respect for the military, and the first responders and the country."

When asked by CNN's Jake Tapper about why the President is pursuing a fight with players, Mnuchin reiterated his statement that the President's statements were about respect for the military and the country.

"I don't think it's a question of a fight the President wants to have. He thinks this is about respect for the military and so many people who put their lives at risk and what the country stands for," Mnuchin said. "The owners should meet and they should decide on this rule the way they decide on any other rule. For as long as I can remember people have stood in honor of this country. This isn't about politics. If people want to talk politics off the field when they're not working for the NFL, they have the absolute right to do that."

NFL players and owners have responded directly to the President's call for players to be fired after protesting. Members of the Ravens and Jaguars kneeled before their game on Sunday morning and various owners released statements in solidarity with their players. The Pittsburgh Steelers have decided to stay in the locker room for the national anthem before their game.

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