- Thomson Reuters
Backlash continued on Sunday to President Donald Trump’s call for the firing of any National Football League players who kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice and police brutality.
The president first made the comments at a rally in Alabama, specifically singling out former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whom he dubbed a “son of a b—-” for protesting.
Compounded by his move to uninvite Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry, who was considering skipping an upcoming White House visit, the president sparked criticism from athletes and team owners alike.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell responded on Saturday, saying Trump’s comments showed an “unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL,” though he did not name the president personally.
Several teams took a knee during the national anthem at Sunday’s games, while team owners took to the field to support their players, linking arm in arm.
Still, as of Sunday afternoon, many other owners who supported Trump during the 2016 election had not publicly condemned Trump’s remarks.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair all donated over $1 million to Trump, and did not immediately offer statements condemning his comments.
Here’s how teams, players, and owners reacted on Sunday:
Cork Gaines and Bob Bryan contributed reporting.
New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft: “I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday.”
“I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities,” he continued. “Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger. There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics. I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”
Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy: “It’s unfortunate that the president decided to use his immense platform to make divisive and offensive statements about our players and the NFL.”
“We strongly believe that players are leaders in our communities and positive influences,” he continued. “They have achieved their positions through tremendous work and dedication and should be celebrated for their success and positive impact. We believe it is important to support any of our players who choose to peacefully express themselves with the hope of change for good. As Americans, we are fortunate to be able to speak openly and freely.”
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross: “Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness.”
- Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
“We need to seek to understand each other and have civil discourse instead of condemnation and sound bites,” Ross continued. “I know our players who knelt for the anthem and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone. They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community, including working with law enforcement to bring people together. We all can benefit from learning, listening and respecting each other.”
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank: “We are at our very best when we are working together, building unity and including everyone’s voice in a constructive dialogue.”
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“Creating division or demonizing viewpoints that are different than our own accomplishes nothing positive and undermines our collective ability to achieve the ideals of our democracy,” he added.
Tennessee Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk: “I am proud to stand with our players and support them in their work on and off the football field.”
“I completely agree with Commissioner Goodell that we are better off as a nation when we are unified and pulling together… Our players make public contributions day-in and day-out and when I hear anyone making disparaging remarks about them, I know it has to be the result of not knowing what they bring to our communities or what they have accomplished,” she said.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay: “I am troubled by the President’s recent comments about our league and our players.”
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“Sports in America have the unique ability to bring people from all walks of life and from different points of view together to work toward or root for a common goal, and the Indianapolis Colts are proud to be a part of that tradition in our home city and state,” he said.
San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York: “The callous and offensive comments made by the President are contradictory to what this great country stands for.”
“Our players have exercised their rights as United States citizens in order to spark conversation and action to address social injustice,” York continued. “We will continue to support them in their peaceful pursuit of positive change in our country and around the world.”
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman: “The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!!”
Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy: “It’s really sad man … our president is a a–hole.”
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New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty: “Ppl said it was disrespectful not going to the White House..I’m sure they are quiet about us being called ‘sons of b—-es'”
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Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley: “‘Stick to sports boy… Sit down and do what your told. Say or do something we don’t like and your fired’ Well I hate to break it to ya…”
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long: “Player- Let’s promote equality, help our communities. Mad Guy- All talk. Player- Actually I do/have done X Mad Guy- U just want attention!”
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In response to a reply to the original tweet: “Yet you voted (presumably) for someone famous solely for being a millionaire.”
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews: “I’m a full supporter of the Flag & This country! Trust Me! But this can’t be real!”
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Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka: “I can’t take anything our Celebrity in Chief says seriously. He’s a real life clown/troll.”
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Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson: “It is a sad day when the #POTUS seeks to disregard and punish American citizens for peacefully exercising their constitutional rights”
Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett: “Let’s take away the one thing that a black man can do. That’ll set em straight. Naw bruh. We diverse. We aren’t just field n—-s anymore.”
Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins: “More than ever we remain committed to advocacy 4 equality & social justice 4 all! Eagles fans Join us in locking arms 4 unity in our city!”
- Mitchell Leff/Getty