A Texas pastor said NFL players who protest police brutality and racism by kneeling during the national anthem should be "thanking God" that they live in America and are "free to earn millions of dollars every year" because they don't have to worry about being "shot in the head," like he said they might be if they lived in North Korea.
"I think what these players are doing is absolutely wrong," Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor in Texas and one of President Donald Trump's chief advisers about and liaison to America's Evangelical Christian community, said on "Fox & Friends" on Monday, according to the Dallas Morning News. "These players ought to be thanking God that they live in a country where they’re not only free to earn millions of dollars every year, but they’re also free from the worry of being shot in the head for taking a knee like they would be if they were in North Korea."
Jeffress also said that he believed "tens of millions of Americans agree" with President Donald Trump's recent calls for NFL players to be fired if they participate in the protest. Jeffress spoke at multiple Trump campaign rallies during the buildup to the 2016 presidential election and joined his advisory board of evangelical leaders that same year. In the past, Jeffress has claimed that the Obama administration was "paving the way for the Antichrist," blamed the 9/11 terror attacks on legalized abortion and noted that he would rather vote for Trump than a candidate who applied the wisdom of Christ's Sermon on the Mount to America's foreign policy.
Trump has returned the favor, telling a rally crowd that he "loved" the pastor who has accused Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and other Christian sects including Mormonism and Catholicism of being dangerous cults. On top of continuing to advise the president and lead prayers at White House events, Jeffress recently said that "In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-un." He regularly appears as an advocate for the president on television.
In his latest appearance on "Fox & Friends," Jeffress made no attempt to offer an alternative solution for NFL players who wanted to voice their opinions on police brutality or other social injustice issues — even though that message was essentially distorted and drowned out in a public relations ploy. Instead, he cited an incident with a high-school football coach who was disciplined by the school because of his post-game prayers and religious speeches. A court recently ruled he spoke as a public employee, not a private citizen, which is why his speech was not protected.
Jeffress said the coach "didn't respond to that injustice by failing to stand for the national anthem."
"There is a better way to protest social injustice without disrespecting our country or disrespecting our country's leaders," Jeffress added. "I know this president, President Trump is not a racist." He added, "For President Trump this is not about race, it's about respect of country."
When it comes to "respect of country," the president can be somewhat selective who he does and does not single out for criticism. Trump, for instance, did not condemn Tom Brady, the quarterback that didn't attend the White House visit after the Patriots won the Super Bowl, whereas he targeted Stephen Curry and disinvited his Golden State Warriors from a similar reception for the mere suggestion that they might decline a welcome. As well, Trump, a fan of beauty pageants, had nothing to say about Miss Texas Margana Wood when she criticized his Charlottesville remarks on live television. He did, however, attack ESPN host Jemele Hill for a series of tweets that covered much of the same ground. Curry and Hill are black. Brady and Wood are white.