NFL commissioner Roger Goodell rebuked President Trump for calling on NFL players that protest the national anthem to be fired, saying that his comments are “divisive” and show “an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL.”
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month,” Goodell said in a statement Saturday morning. “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.”
In a statement, the NFL calls Trump's comments "divisive." pic.twitter.com/J8ZeOW3lcN
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) September 23, 2017
The NFL Players Association also declared that “it will never back down” in supporting players’ rights.
“Whether or not Roger and the owners will speak for themselves about their views on player rights and their commitment to player safety remains to be seen,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement posted to Twitter Saturday morning. “This union, however, will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks.”
We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports. pic.twitter.com/Ec3Bc4qt9h
— DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) September 23, 2017
Hours earlier, President Trump told a crowd at a rally for Alabama Senate candidate Luther Strange (R) that they should “pick up and leave” NFL games if they see players kneeling during the national anthem.
“When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem – the only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium,” Trump suggested. “I guarantee things will stop.”
“Luther and I and everyone in this arena tonight are unified by the same great American values. We’re proud of our country. We respect our flag,” he continued.
“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,'” he continued, adding, “‘He is fired.'”
Trump wishes NFL owners would tell anthem protesters "get that son of a bitch off the field right now" pic.twitter.com/gq4EH3lNoY
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) September 23, 2017