NFL owners respond day after President Trump criticizes player protests
— -- Owners for the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants were among those across the league who responded Saturday to President Donald Trump, who one night earlier said he wished NFL players who protest during the national anthem would be fired and later Saturday called out commissioner Roger Goodell directly.?
Reaction across the NFL was widespread, with many team owners and players either issuing statements or?posting their thoughts on social media.?
"The callous and offensive comments made by the President are contradictory to what this great country stands for," 49ers CEO Jed York said. "Our players have exercised their rights as United States citizens in order to spark conversation and action to address social injustice. We will continue to support them in their peaceful pursuit of positive change in our country and around the world."
During a political rally in Alabama on Friday, President Trump said of player protests: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out. He's fired! He's fired!'"
Responding to those comments in a statement Saturday morning, commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL is at its best "when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture."
"Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities," Goodell said, in part, in a statement, referencing Trump.?
The president responded to that statement later Saturday.
Other owners or team presidents backed the commissioner after his initial statement. Among those who spoke out:?
Green Bay Packers president 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. 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."
Stephen Ross of the Miami Dolphins: "Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness. We need to seek to understand each other and have civil discourse instead of condemnation and sound bites."
Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch: "Comments like we heard last night from the President are inappropriate, offensive and divisive. We are proud of our players, the vast majority of whom use their NFL platform to make a positive difference in our society."
The? Buffalo Bills, meanwhile, said they had a team meeting Saturday night to discuss what owners Terry and Kim Pegula called "divisive and disrespectful" remarks by Trump.?
"Our players have the freedom to express themselves in a respectful and thoughtful manner and we all agreed that our sole message is to provide and to promote an environment that is focused on love and equality," the Bills said in a statement.?
The NFLPA also released an expanded statement Saturday morning, saying that it makes "no apologies" for protecting the rights of its members, which include freedom of speech.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, then with the 49ers, began the wave of protests in the NFL when he sat during the national anthem before a preseason game in August 2016. During the regular season, Kaepernick modified his protest of social injustice and knelt during the anthem.
Trump didn't mention Kaepernick or any other NFL player specifically during his Friday speech. Earlier this year, Trump took credit for the fact that Kaepernick hadn't been signed.
Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers during the offseason. He has not been signed by a new team. Several players have continued to protest during the anthem this season.
Information from ESPN's Kevin Seifert and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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