CITY HALL — Siding with President Donald Trump, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis on Sunday condemned football players for protesting during the national anthem at games.
Some 200 National Football League players sat, knelt or raised their fists in acts of defiance during “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Sunday games after Trump criticized those who kneel while the national anthem plays.
Malliotakis, the Republican nominee against Mayor Bill de Blasio, said on Sunday, “Trump is right; the NFL should fire or fine those who disrespect both our flag and the millions of fans who ultimately pay their salaries.”
The comments come the week after Malliotakis (R-East Shore/Brooklyn) tried to distance herself from the president.
Malliotakis expressed regret for voting for Trump during an editorial board meeting with the New York Daily News last week. When asked by a NY1 reporter what Trump is doing well right now, Malliotakis said, “I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you.”
“In hindsight what I really wish is that Marco Rubio was the Republican nominee. He wasn’t,” Malliotakis had told the Daily News. “I voted for the person who I thought would shake things up.” If she could vote in a re-match now, she said, “I’d write in Marco Rubio…I’d write in Marco Rubio so that I could tell you I voted Marco Rubio.”
The Malliotakis campaign had no further comment on that statement on Monday.
Malliotakis chaired New York campaign operations for Sen. Rubio in the 2016 presidential primary but ultimately voted for Trump.
The president is unpopular among New York City voters, but Malliotakis’ native Staten Island was the only borough Trump won last November.
De Blasio’s campaign has tied Malliotakis to the president, calling her a “pro-Trump Republican.” On Monday his campaign pointed to past statements Malliotakis made about Trump’s reaction to white supremacists and hate groups involved in deadly confrontations in Virginia last month.
“Assemblymember Malliotakis is as quick to agree with Trump about the NFL as she was slow to criticize the President for saying some neo-Nazis are very fine people,” de Blasio campaign spokesman Dan Levitan said. “It’s no surprise that some of Trump’s biggest backers are funding her campaign.”
The NFL protests began more than a year ago when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick wouldn’t stand during the anthem to protest police mistreatment of minorities. Some believe he wasn’t signed this year because NFL owners are trying to avoid controversy.
Trump has called for the players to be fired and rescinded an invite to the White House for NBA champion Golden State Warriors after Stephen Curry’s criticism.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,'” Trump said during a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, on Friday.
On Sunday, Trump said the players who protested were “very disrespectful to our country.
“This has nothing to do with race,” Trump told reporters. “This has to do with respect for our country.”
Malliotakis agreed that the protests were disrespectful in her lengthy statement on Sunday.
“There are few things more American than football,” she said. “I am deeply disappointed that NFL players, who are living the American Dream, are showing such disrespect for our nation’s anthem and flag. The American flag is far more than a colored cloth; it represents our shared freedoms and honors those that have fought and died to preserve them. Among those freedoms is free speech.Thanks to our men and women in the military, NFL players have the right to express their personal political views anywhere; except for in their workplace — the football field. It would not be tolerated if your doctor or dry cleaner lectured you on their political beliefs every time you walked through their door or if your child’s teacher knelt or stepped out of the classroom during the pledge of allegiance. President Trump is right; the NFL should fire or fine those who disrespect both our flag and the millions of fans who ultimately pay their salaries. NFL players are Professional Athletes; it’s about time they acted professionally by leaving their personal political views in the locker room. Until that happens, sports fans can exercise their own rights by boycotting games and refusing to purchase NFL memorabilia.”
Reached for additional comment on Monday, Malliotakis campaign spokesman Rob Ryan pointed out that de Blasio previously said that police officers should put political opinions aside while on duty and said the mayor is “a walking contradiction.”
In August, de Blasio defended off-duty NYPD officers who rallied in support of Kaepernick.
“They’re citizens, off-duty and have a right to express their opinions,” de Blasio said. “And when they go on duty their political opinions are put aside, and they serve everyone without any bias or political judgment.”
De Blasio said on Monday the campaign’s comparison was “apples and oranges if ever I’ve heard them.”
“Public employees across the board are not allowed to express personal, partisan views while doing their work in public service,” de Blasio said at an unrelated event.
He also said Malliotakis’ statement about the NFL protests “is a misreading of the American right to free speech” and that calling for players to be penalized is “irresponsible.”
Social media reacted to her statement.
Maybe she thinks the election is only on Staten Island.
— Margot (@soullesschimney) September 25, 2017
— Dennis Saffran (@dennisjsaffran) September 25, 2017
Are you sure this isn’t an onion article?
— Warne Goodman (@warnegoodman) September 25, 2017
Associated Press material was used in this report.