A fundraising committee backing President Donald Trump has launched a petition calling for supporters to be counted among those who believe in standing for the National Anthem.
The message is paid for by a joint fundraising group between Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee and is posted on the Republican Party's official website. The petition asks for a full name, email address and zip code as a sign of patriotism and support for the National Anthem.
Trump has sparred with the NFL and the players who have protested during the National Anthem, putting himself in the middle of a controversy with significant racial and cultural undertones. The Trump campaign team earlier this month offered supporters an "I STAND FOR THE FLAG" sticker in exchange for contributions of at least $5 to the committee, and Trump himself has frequently tweeted on the subject.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this week at an owners meeting in New York that players are not attempting to disrespect the flag in kneeling during the anthem, although he urged them to stand. However, the league said it will not mandate that players stand for the anthem despite Trump's continued requests.
Anthem protests began at the start of last season, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench during a preseason game's national anthem.
Protests spread this season after Trump suggested at an Alabama campaign rally last month that NFL owners fire players who kneel during the Anthem. Trump later said players should be suspended.
Dozens of players have taken a knee during the anthem to protest racial injustice. Kaepernick, now a free agent, has filed a grievance against team owners, alleging they colluded to keep him from being signed.