Donald Trump drew more than typical stares when he took to the field at Monday night’s college football national championship in Atlanta; he incurred the wrath and mockery of eagle-eyed TV viewers who noted that the current U.S. president didn’t seem to know the words to the national anthem.
In footage taken moments before the game, Trump can be seen with his right hand over his heart, squinting straight ahead and only mouthing the occasional word – and often off-beat – as country artist Zac Brown sings the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Intense scrutiny of the video shows that the president excitedly latches on to several phrases within the song, including “… you see,” while trailing off or inaccurately mouthing most other lines.
Social media lit up immediately afterward, with users criticizing Trump for flubbing the national anthem so badly, especially after his ongoing tirade against athletes who have refused to stand for the “Star Spangled Banner” in protest of racial discrimination and police violence. (He once called them “sons of bitches.”)
And in a speech to the annual gathering of the American Farm Bureau Federation in Nashville just hours prior to the football game, Trump doubled down on his disdain for protesting athletes.
“We want our flag respected,” he said. “We want our national anthem respected also. There’s plenty of space for people to express their views and to protest, but we love our flag and we love our anthem, and we want to keep it that way.”
Players on both teams were absent from the field during the national anthem Monday, as is often the case during college football games, though the Atlanta branch of the NAACP encouraged those attending the game to wear white and wave white towels in protest against Trump’s policies and statements, a nod to conservatives’ nickname for liberals: “snowflakes.”