Trump: 'I wasn't preoccupied with the NFL'

"I was ashamed of what was taking place," Trump said.

ByABC News
September 26, 2017, 3:30 PM

— -- President Donald Trump continued his rant against NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem during his joint press conference with the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, calling it an "important situation."

"I wasn’t preoccupied with the NFL. I was ashamed of what was taking place," Trump said when asked if he should’ve been focused on offering assistance to Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

He added, "Was I preoccupied? Not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work. To be honest with you, that’s an important function of working. It’s called respect for our country."

Earlier today, he suggested in a tweet that the NFL should bar players from kneeling and slammed the NFL's ratings, saying they were "way down," except for when audiences tune in to see whether there are protests during the national anthem.

Today is the fourth consecutive day that he has openly criticized the league and its players.

He also commented on Monday night's Dallas Cowboys–Arizona Cardinals game. During last night's game, Cowboys players and owner Jerry Jones linked arms and knelt before "The Star-Spangled Banner." While it played, they stood but continued to link arms.

At first, Trump pointed out that there was booing and "great anger" when they knelt. He wrote of the team's standing for the anthem, "Big progress being made."

Trump ignited a firestorm Friday evening when he criticized professional athletes who protest by kneeling during the national anthem.

"Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now'?" he said at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama.

Since then, Trump has doubled down on his stance in a series of tweets and comments to reporters. Over the weekend, NFL teams, players and owners from across the league protested peacefully by kneeling, locking arms or skipping the national anthem in response to his criticism of players he says are disrespecting the U.S. with their protests.