Speaking at a rally in support of Alabama Senator Luther Strange, President Donald Trump on Friday made several biting remarks about the NFL, urging team owners to fire anyone who chooses to kneel or show some other form of protest during the national anthem. Several NFL players past and present were openly unhappy about these comments, but in a new development, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell himself spoke out about the president’s profane exhortations, referring to the statements as “divisive” and lacking in respect.
As quoted by the New York Daily News, Trump expressed his disappointment with the current state of the NFL as he showed his support for Strange. And while his comments about wanting NFL owners to fire people who disrespect the American flag did not mention anyone by name, many have interpreted the president’s words as a jab at Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who earned notoriety in the 2016 NFL season for choosing to kneel during the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a b***h off the field right now. Out, you’re fired!'”
Kaepernick is currently a free agent who has yet to be signed by an NFL team for the 2017 season. And while the NFL has denied he is being “blackballed” for his public, pre-game protests against police brutality, publications such as the San Francisco Examiner have opined that he might indeed be persona non grata in the NFL, as there are several teams that could have used his services, but have instead opted for less-talented or less-tested individuals as their starting and/or second-string quarterback.
Donald Trump’s remarks on NFL anthem protesters weren’t the only ones he had made about the long-running professional football league at the Luther Strange stump speech. As a crowd of thousands cheered the president, he reportedly complained about the softer style of play being favored in the NFL. According to the New York Daily News, Trump wasn’t happy about players getting ejected for aggressive tackles, even as the NFL has made such reforms with the intent of reducing the risk of players suffering from severe brain trauma.
In response to Trump’s words at the Alabama rally, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement early Saturday morning, calling the president out for not showing respect for the league and its players.
“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 over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game, and all our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force of good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
Goodell’s statement was followed by a separate one from NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, who, according to the Huffington Post, said that the NFLPA would “never back down” when protecting the constitutional rights of pro football players as citizens, as well as their safety in a sport known to come with “great risks.”
What are your thoughts on Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners should fire national anthem protesters such as Colin Kaepernick? Do you also agree or disagree with his comments about the lack of aggressive, possibly violent hits in present-day NFL? Do you believe the NFL responded the right way in the aftermath of the president’s remarks? We’d like to hear from you in the comments section.
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]