Before Trump arrived in Atlanta, he sharpened his criticism of athletes who refuse to stand during the playing of the national anthem, telling attendees at an agriculture meeting in Tennessee that “we love our flag and we love our anthem and we want to keep it that way.”
He added, to applause, “We want our national anthem respected, too.”
>> Visit WSBTV.com for more Georgia Bulldogs news
The remarks came at an appearance at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in Nashville, which he attended with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
The president was to take in the game with Perdue, a former Georgia governor who was a walk-on Bulldogs football player, and Nick Ayers, a Georgia native and top aide to Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump has embraced college football amid an ongoing feud with the National Football League over players who protest during the national anthem against social injustice. His spokeswoman opened her first press conference this year celebrating Georgia and Alabama — "both in the heart of Trump country" — for playoff victories.
It is Trump's second visit to Atlanta since he won the election, and several dozen demonstrators protested near the stadium. Some of them sought to remind him of his harsh words about the city. Before his inauguration, Trump said in a tweet that the congressional district that spans the city is in "horrible shape and falling apart."
Shortly after arriving in Atlanta, Trump signed a bill that grants Georgia its first national historic park at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site near downtown Atlanta. He signed it shortly after Martin Luther King Jr.'s niece, Alveda King, boarded Air Force One.
The measure was long championed by U.S. Rep. John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat and vocal Trump critic, who praised the bill without mentioning the president.
"I hope that this moment will serve as a reminder of the constant work to realize Dr. King's dream of building the Beloved Community - a community at peace with itself and our neighbors," Lewis said.