Military veteran and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura said not only do NFL players have the right to kneel during the national anthem, but he questions why the anthem is played before games in the first place.

In a series of tweets Sunday, Ventura joined the rapidly escalating national debate that was stoked when President Trump late last week profanely scolded NFL players who have chosen to kneel during the anthem in an expression of concern about racial justice in the United States.

The owners of several NFL teams criticized Trump's suggestion that they fire players who kneel, a gesture that was given birth last year when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick went to one knee during the anthem in response to blacks in America dying from police gunfire.

Trump kept up his attack on the players with a tweet Saturday scolding NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for siding with the players choosing to kneel and insisting, "Tell them to stand!"

In reply on Twitter, Ventura wrote, "No. As a veteran I stand with Colin Kaepernick."

Ventura went on further on Twitter that "I fought for Americans to exercise their first amendment rights ... I don't stand for the anthem either ... Why the hell do we even need the 'national anthem' before they play?"

Ventura, a political independent with a libertarian streak, has at least since 2011 declared he no longer stands for the anthem. While governor, he caused a row when he vetoed a bill requiring schoolkids to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Along with his time in the military and as governor, Ventura's professional bio includes a long stint as a professional wrestler, roles in movies and currently the host on state-run Russia TV of "The World According to Jesse," a weekly political commentary program.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482