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Dayton says he disagrees with those kneeling during anthem but defends right to do it

ST. PAUL — Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday, Sept. 25, that he doesn't approve of those who kneel during the national anthem but he defended their right to do so.

"I personally disagree with those who sit or kneel during the national anthem," Dayton said, adding that sports figures should use their largess to "counteract the deficiencies that they are speaking out against. But I don't question their constitutional right to do so and unfortunately, the president ...has made this into a much greater conflict than it should be."

The controversy over sports stars, particularly football players, deciding to kneel or otherwise protest during the playing of the national anthem has grown in recent days. President Donald Trump spent the weekend expressing his disapproval and suggesting players should be fired.

Sports figures have joined in the protest and the attention has grown across sports and across the world.

Dayton said the flag is "sacrosanct...and I personally believe that is should be respected," and that people should "find other means to express their displeasures." In 2006, when Dayton was in the U.S. Senate, he was one of just a handful of Democrats to support a constitutional amendment to ban burning or other desecration of the American flag.

The governor said that the reaction of the Minnesota Vikings in Sunday's game — players linked arms during the playing of the national anthem but remained standing — was "very appropriate."

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, also a Democrat, was in the University of Minnesota's Williams Arena Sunday when the Minnesota Lynx linked arms during the anthem before they played the Los Angeles Sparks. The Sparks stayed off the court until the song was complete.

"I thought it fit beautifully with the overall day," Smith said.

While Dayton believes that using the flag's symbolism to protest is not appropriate, he disagrees with Trump on the appropriate next steps.

"I have my personal opinion and various players who have taken positions have their and they have a right to their position and I have a right to mine," Dayton said. "That shouldn't be called to question."