The Democratic Coalition, an anti-Trump political group, filed a complaint against President Donald Trump with the Office of Government Ethics on Sunday for calling on NFL owners to fire players who kneel in protest during the national anthem, TheWrap has learned exclusively.
The group -- which filed a similar grievance against Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier this month -- cited the same federal law, which makes it a crime for a government employee to influence the employment practices of a private entity "solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation."
"Donald Trump crossed the line when he called for the firing of any NFL player who kneels during the national anthem," Jon Cooper, Chairman of the Democratic Coalition, said in a statement Sunday obtained by TheWrap. "No president is exempt from the rule of law, and it's about time the current occupant of the Oval Office realizes that."
Trump set off a national firestorm on Friday when he suggested during a rally in Alabama that coaches should get the "son of a b----" players off the field if they continued to kneel. The comments triggered widespread protests from players, the league and coaches, many of whom condemned Trump's comments.
"Donald Trump thinks he's above the law, but this is a reminder that he's not," said Scott Dworkin, senior advisor of the Democratic Coalition. "We will continue to fight back against Trump every time he abuses his power, in every way possible."
The groups based its complaint on 18 U.S. Code § 227, which makes it a federal crime punishable by a fine or up to 15 years in prison or both, for a government employee to influence or threaten to influence a private company's employment decisions.
"This is yet another example of the Trump White House's blatant disregard for the Constitution and its authoritarian efforts to quiet dissenters. It is of the utmost importance that we hold the Trump administration accountable for this illicit behavior and protect our democratic institutions," added Nate Lerner, the group's executive director said in a statement.
The group made similar headlines last week when it filed two separate ethics complaints against White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The complaint claimed Sanders broke the same federal law when she called on ESPN to fire sportscaster Jemele Hill for calling Trump a "white supremacist" on Twitter.
The White House did not immediately respond to TheWrap's request for comment.
You can read the full complaint below.
September 24, 2017
On Friday September 22nd, 2017 President Donald Trump said this at a rally for Alabama Senator Luther Strange: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired. He's fired!' You know, some owner is going to do that. He's going to say, 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired.' And that owner, they don't know it [but] they'll be the most popular person in this country."
On Saturday September 23rd, 2017 President Trump tweeted "If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect.... ...our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!" Trump later tweeted: "Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.Tell them to stand!"
Today President Trump tweeted "If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend! NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S."
18 U.S. Code § 227 makes it a federal crime - punishable by a fine of up to 15 years in prison - for anyone, including the President, to influence or threaten to influence a private employment decision.
We respectfully request that the U.S. Office of Government Ethics investigate these potential ethics violations and take all appropriate disciplinary actions against President Trump.
Scott J. Dworkin
Democratic Coalition Against Trump