Pres. Trump says US should change tax law to punish NFL

FILE - This Aug. 21, 2017 file photo shows members of the Cleveland Browns kneeling during the national anthem before an NFL preseason football game between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, file)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is suggesting the U.S. change its tax laws to punish organizations like the NFL if members are “disrespecting” the national anthem or flag.

The NFL gave up its federal tax-exempt status a few years ago and now files tax returns as a taxable entity. So it’s unlikely that Trump’s proposal, tweeted in the early hours Tuesday, would change anything.

Trump tweeted : “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!”

Trump also tweeted Tuesday that ESPN ratings have “tanked” because of Jemele Hill, the anchor suspended for making political statements on social media.

While NFL viewership is down slightly, ESPN remains among the most popular cable networks, averaging 3 million viewers in prime time. The network has suffered subscriber losses over the last few years as some viewers have moved to streaming services from cable television.

Hill, an African-American co-host of the 6 p.m. broadcast of “SportsCenter,” received backlash last month after calling Trump a “white supremacist” in a series of tweets that referenced the president’s comments about a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

That comment prompted Trump to demand an apology from ESPN and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to call for Hill’s firing.

While ESPN took no formal action against Hill over the Trump comment, she did apologize to the network for the trouble her remarks had caused while standing by the tweets. ESPN cited that apology in announcing Hill’s suspension Monday , saying in a statement that ESPN employees had been “reminded of how individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such actions would have consequences.”

Hill targeted Jerry Jones on Twitter on Sunday after the Dallas Cowboys owner stated that players who disrespect the flag would not play for his team. She suggested fans who disagree with Jones should boycott the team’s advertisers and not buy the team’s merchandise.

She clarified Monday that she wasn’t calling for an NFL boycott.

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