Trump Skipped Super Bowl National Anthem To Greet Cheerleaders After Issuing Statement About Respecting Anthem

The president has been criticized for what many see as racially charged attacks against NFL players who kneel during the national anthem.

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Donald Trump issued a statement before the Super Bowl calling on Americans to proudly stand for the national anthem, but during the Super Bowl the president had more pressing matters to attend to during the Star Spangled Banner — greeting some cheerleaders who have given a private performance at his swanky party.

The president and First Lady Melania Trump remained at Trump’s luxury Mar-a-Lago resort for Sunday’s festivities, hosting a party for their high-profile friends. According to the Sun-Sentinel, the festivities were kicked off by the Florida Atlantic University marching band, which played “Hail to the Chief” and “Shut Up and Dance” while the college’s cheerleaders performed. After they finished, Donald Trump took the time to greet the cheerleaders, personally thanking them for the performance.

But the private show took place in the middle of the Super Bowl’s national anthem, performed by singer Pink, which People magazine noted caused Trump to miss the entire ceremony. Earlier that day, Trump made time to call on others to show respect for the anthem, putting out a statement before the game that called on Americans to “proudly stand” during the anthem.

“Though many of our nation’s service members are unable to be home with family and friends to enjoy this evening’s American tradition, they are always in our thoughts and prayers,” Trump’s statement read. “We owe these heroes the greatest respect for defending our liberty and our American way of life. Their sacrifice is stitched into each star and every stripe of our Star-Spangled Banner. We hold them in our hearts and thank them for our freedom as we proudly stand for the national anthem.”

That has earned Trump criticism for what critics see as a racially charged criticism aimed at inflaming the anger of his base. Trump has often taken aim at NFL players who sit or kneel during the national anthem, protests that started last year with Colin Kaepernick as a demonstration against police brutality against minorities.

Donald Trump has called on NFL owners to fire players who do not stand for the national anthem, which critics see as an attack against the mostly black players choosing to demonstrate.

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And critics also note that Trump has often failed to show reverence for the flag himself. As the Washington Post noted, Trump was sitting with television host Sean Hannity for an interview on a military base last year when the president continued to talk and even cracked jokes during a military flag-lowering ceremony.

“What a nice sound that is. Are they playing that for you or for me?” Trump said to the audience. “They’re playing that in honor of his ratings.”

While Donald Trump’s decision to skip the Super Bowl national anthem generated controversy, the game itself was without drama. No players from the Philadelphia Eagles or New England Patriots took part in any demonstrations during the anthem itself.