The executive director of the NFL players' union is responding to President Donald Trump's comments about players who kneel during the national anthem, saying no one should have to "choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights."

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith says in a statement that demonstrations are "protected speech" that has prompted "thoughtful discussions in our locker rooms and in board rooms."

Trump said Friday he would love to see NFL owners fire players who kneel during "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Several athletes, including a handful of NFL players, have kneeled to protest treatment of blacks by police.

Smith says: "The line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just 'shut up and play.'"