President Trump thanked America’s armed forces in a statement Sunday afternoon before the Super Bowl, and prodded viewers of the game to stand for the national anthem.

“As many Americans come together to watch the Super Bowl, Melania and I extend our greetings and appreciation for those who make occasions like this possible, particularly the brave men and women of our Armed Forces,” Trump said in a statement.

“Though many of our nation’s service members are unable to be home with family and friends to enjoy this evening’s American tradition, they are always in our thoughts and prayers. We owe these heroes the greatest respect for defending our liberty and our American way of life. Their sacrifice is stitched into each star and every stripe of our Star-Spangled Banner. We hold them in our hearts and thank them for our freedom as we proudly stand for the national anthem.”

Trump has repeatedly criticized NFL players who have kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality.

Democrats and some Republicans have defended the players’ right to free speech, and say they are protesting a legitimate issue.

Trump has been quiet about the issue in recent months. He declined to participate in a customary nationally televised pre-Super Bowl interview this year.