Dayton is no fan of athlete anthem protests

Gov. Mark Dayton disagrees with athletes protesting during the national anthem and thinks they should instead be working to solve the deficiencies they see. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Gov. Mark Dayton says he personally disagrees with professional athletes who protest during the national anthem by sitting or kneeling, but he does not question the players’ constitutional right to do it.

The number of NFL players kneeling grew significantly Sunday, following President Donald Trump’s criticism of the protests. He suggested team owners should fire players who don’t stand during the anthem.

Dayton said he thinks the president made it a bigger conflict than it should be.

Players have said they’re protesting racial injustice. But Dayton, like the president, sees it as disrespect for the flag.

“People can disagree with their government, and I do and I have,” Dayton said. “They can disagree with those of us in who are in government. But that flag to me is sacrosanct. It’s something that every Minnesotan and every American who lost her or his life shed their blood for, and I personally believe that it should be respected.”

Instead of protesting, Dayton said sports figures should be working daily to “counteract the deficiencies that they’re speaking out against.”

Dayton didn’t have a problem with another form of demonstration seen during Sunday’s NFL games. In response to the president’s remarks, players and owners throughout the league, including the Minnesota Vikings, stood with locked arms during the national anthem.

“I think that’s very appropriate, especially in the context of what’s been going on,” Dayton said.