The NFL commissioner, current and former players, and liberal commentators have joined in a growing chorus of criticism against President Donald Trump’s call to fire players who kneel during the national anthem.
Trump’s controversial remarks came during a political rally in Alabama on Friday night, sparking predictions that many more football players would kneel on Sunday in protest.
‘Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners…when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a b***h off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”‘ Trump said at the rally.
League commissioner Roger Goodell clapped back in a statement on Saturday: ‘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.’
Donald Trump and Roger Goodell are seen together in 2008 at a New York Jets kickoff party. League commissioner Goodell has called Trump’s latest remarks ‘divisive’
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell clapped back in a statement on Saturday
The head of the NFL players’ union, DeMaurice Smith, also spoke out, saying ‘we no longer can afford to stick to sports’ in a statement that seemed to presage further protests.
Kneeling during the national anthem began as a form of protest a year ago, when then injury-sidelined San Francisco 49s quarterback Colin Kaepernick began doing it in protest over the treatment of blacks and other people of color.
Following Trumps’s remarks Friday, some NFL players were quick to join in responding to them.
‘Does anyone tell trump to stick to politics, like they tell us to stick to sports?’ wrote Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron.
George Iloka, a safety for the Cinncinnati Bengals, had this to say: ‘I can’t take anything our Celebrity in Chief says seriously. He’s a real life clown/troll.’
‘When will people learn that fear won’t make someone sit down. It quite possibly will make more stand up for what they believe in,’ remarked Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley.
Though the president never mentioned any players by name, he was most likely referring to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (center), who was the first prominent NFL star to draw attention for refusing to stand during the national anthem as an act of protest against police shootings of African-Americans
Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron wondered whether Trump had wandered out of his field
George Iloka, a safety for the Cinncinnati Bengals, joked that Trump was a ‘clown’
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley predicted the remarks would spread the protest
Washington Redskins linebacker Zach Brown responded angrily to Trump on Twitter
The executive director of the NFL player’s association was quick to speak in support of players
Roger Goodell (center) surprised observers with his quick response to Trump’s remarks. The president is close with many NFL team owners
Retired players also didn’t shy from joining in the debate, including former Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant who said: ‘I’m actually glad Trump said what he did. Publicly with an audience . Once again it empowers the players to live their truth. Show colors.’
ESPN SportsCenter host Jemele Hill, who recently courted controversy by calling Trump a ‘white supremacist’, predicted that the president’s remarks could provoke widespread kneeling protests.
‘Just so we’re clear: the president’s comments will only incite more player protests, not quell them,’ Hill said.
The earliest test of her theory will come Sunday morning, with the Baltimore Ravens playing the Jacksonville Jaguars in London’s Wembley Stadium, set to air at 9.30am Eastern Time.
‘Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners…when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a b***h off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”‘ Trump (above) said during a political rally in Alabama on Friday
Retired Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant said he welcomed the airing of grievances
ESPN SportsCenter host Jemele Hill, who courted controversy by calling Trump a ‘white supremacist’ predicted that the president’s remarks could provoke widespread kneeling
SB Nation staff writer Charlotte Wilder wondered about a strain on ties between Trump and team owners, eight of whom donated a collective $7.25million to his inauguration
While Trump called on his supporters to boycott the NFL by leaving the stadium if any players refuse to stand during the national anthem, some liberals are saying they will tune in to the game for the first time in a gesture of defiance.
‘Tuning in the watch the NFL for the first time on #TakeAKnee Sunday. Nothing makes me more proud to be American than standing up to 45,’ wrote Twitter user @LJonasdotter, who describes herself as a progressive, feminist unmarried mother.
Other liberal commentators turned up the dial to apoplectic, contrasting Trump’s critique of player protests in the NFL to his reaction to a white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virgina last month.
‘Trump thinks football players who peacefully protest should be fired but white nationalists who march are good folks #TakeAKnee,’ wrote Ed Krassenstein, editor of Independent Reporter.
Ed Krassenstein, editor of Independent Reporter, contrasted Trumps remarks on the NFL with the way his reaction to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia was characterized
GQ correspondent Keith Olberman had an answer when asked why Trump spoke up on the NFL
‘THE PROTESTING PLAYERS ARE BLACK. TRUMP IS A WHITE SUPREMACIST. Any other questions?’ wrote GQ correspondent Keith Olberman.
Trump counts many NFL team owners among his friends, and received a total of $7.25million in donations toward his inauguration festivities from eight owners.
New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, who donated $1million to the inauguration, was even appointed Trump’s ambassador to the UK.
Some wondered if that would create awkwardness, including SB Nation staff writer Charlotte Wilder.
She wrote: ‘Can’t wait to see Trump pallin’ around with NFL owners after he said NFL employees who exercise their first amendment rights should be fired.’
In his remarks, Trump also told the rally’s attendees that he was part of the reason the NFL has seen viewership drop in recent months.
‘Now the No. 1 reason happens to be, they like watching what’s happening with yours truly,’ he said.
Trump also said that 15-yard penalties for ‘beautiful’ tackles were ‘ruining the game.’