(WVUE) - Tuesday, President Donald Trump threatened the NFL financially on the same day league Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to owners saying he wants players to stand during the national anthem.
"It's been well-documented that billions of taxpayer dollars continue to subsidize the construction and renovation of professional sports stadiums," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said.
President Trump sent out a tweet in opposition of players protesting social injustice during the anthem.
"Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!" the President said via Twitter.
Two years ago, the NFL's central office gave up its tax-exempt status, but 13 teams have gotten more than $1 billion in federal subsidies since 2000 to build or renovate stadiums.
"If this industry is going to use money from American taxpayers to build the very fields they play on is it really too much to ask that they show respect for the American flag at the beginning of the game?" Huckabee-Sanders said.
The protest is blamed for a dip in viewers since President Trump joined the debate. The NFL's TV ratings in the first five weeks dropped eight percent from last season to an average of 16.5 million viewers.
Goodell has defended the protest in the past, but on Tuesday, he sent a letter to owners saying "Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem...It is an important moment in our game."
In Goodell's memo, he stated he wanted the league to move past the controversy and discuss how to address the issue going forward. However, Goodell did not specify what players say they are protesting, only calling it a debate over "social issues".
"We support the National Anthem, the flag and the men and women who fought to defend it and our position hasn't changed on that front. We're glad to see the NFL taking positive steps in that direction," Huckabee-Sanders said.
The NFL Player's Association did not have a response to Goodell or the president's remarks on Tuesday.
New Orleans Saints players and coaches have protested before and during the National Anthem at games this season. The team did not respond to Fox 8's request for comment.
The NFL policy says players "should stand" during the National Anthem, but there is nothing in the league's policy that would punish those who protest.