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Dale Earnhardt Jr. defends right to protest after NASCAR owners threaten to fire anyone who sits for anthem

The sport’s most popular driver responded to comments made by team owners and President Trump.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ISM Connect 300 - Practice Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

While some NASCAR team owners say they would fire anyone under their employment who didn’t stand for the national anthem, Dale Earnhardt Jr. offered a different perspective in a tweet posted Monday morning.

In expressing his viewpoint on those who choose to kneel for the playing of the national anthem, Earnhardt, NASCAR’s 14-time most popular driver, shared a quote attributed to John F. Kennedy:

Earnhardt’s tweet comes in the wake of team owners and NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Richard Childress both saying Sunday they expected their employees to stand for the national anthem and failure to do so would result in their termination. Petty and Childress made their respective comments prior to Sunday’s Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“Anybody that don’t stand up for that ought to be out of the country. Period,” Petty said, via USA Today. “If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.”

Petty and Childress made their remarks on the same day many NFL players and owners staged silent protests before games across the country. Several owners locked arms with players during the national anthem and released statements supporting a player’s right to speak out on social issues.

“Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over,’’ Childress said on how he would deal with an employee not standing. “Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.”

That NASCAR team owners reacted differently than their counterparts in the NFL wasn’t lost on President Donald Trump, who tweeted Monday morning he was proud of NASCAR and its fans for its stance on the national anthem:

On Friday, Trump said at a rally that NFL owners who have a player protest should say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired.” Those divisive comments elicited backlash from NFL owners and players, setting the stage for widespread protests before Sunday’s games.

NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls as the head coach of the Washington NFL franchise, didn’t go as far as Petty and Childress in saying he would fire someone who didn’t stand. But Gibbs did praise the patriotism within NASCAR, which has not seen any protests of the national anthem.

“So much has been sacrificed for our country and that flag,” Gibbs said after his driver, Kyle Busch, won at New Hampshire. “I think we really feel that heart to heart, most people kind of feel like that are with us. It's just a big deal for us and to honor America.

“I'm proud of the way we've represented ourselves, and I'm proud of this sport, too. I think this sport has a certain way they look at things. I really appreciate that.”

NASCAR issued a statement Monday afternoon in response to Petty’s and Childress’ comments.

“Sports are a unifying influence in our society, bringing people of differing backgrounds and beliefs together. Our respect for the national anthem has always been a hallmark of our pre-race events. Thanks to the sacrifices of many, we live in a country of unparalleled freedoms and countless liberties, including the right to peacefully express one’s opinion.”