Secret Tape Of Owners Meeting Reveals That Teams Feared What Trump Would Say If Kaepernick Protests Continued

NFL owners were reluctant to discuss the matter of Colin Kaepernick's unemployment, but were eager to bring the anthem protests to an end in the interest of the league's image and bottom line.

Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneeling
Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

NFL owners were reluctant to discuss the matter of Colin Kaepernick's unemployment, but were eager to bring the anthem protests to an end in the interest of the league's image and bottom line.

Colin Kaepernick’s collusion case may have gotten a boost from a leaked tape of the NFL owners meeting that took place in October. Commissioner Roger Goodell wanted to keep the meeting “confidential” but it appears to have been taped.

The New York Times obtained an audiotape of the proceedings and it reveals that the owners were worried about how the national anthem protests were affecting the league’s bottom line and the effect that Donald Trump was having on attendance and viewership.

The sit-down, which included players, owners, and league executives, lasted some three hours. It was reportedly a divisive exchange where owners focused their attention on finding ways to stop the protests from continuing. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said that “this kneeling” was “the elephant in the room.” Kraft believes that the protests, and Trump’s response to them, have been “divisive and horrible.”

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey told the group that they would have to “find a way to not be divided and not get baited” by Trump. Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula openly expressed fears of what could happen if Trump started tweeting again in criticism of the NFL. Considering the financial losses the organization had already taken, Pegula insisted that they needed to come up with an immediate plan to stop the bleeding.

Kaepernick and Reid
Eric Reid (No. 35) and Colin Kaepernick (No. 7) of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem at Levi’s Stadium on October 23, 2016, in Santa Clara, California. Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

But Houston Texans owner Bob McNair didn’t mince his words. He told the players who were present that they need to bring an end to the demonstrations–period.

“You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you,” McNair said.

While the owners continued to focus on their business interests, the players were determined to talk about why Colin Kaepernick still had no job in the league. Former San Francisco 49ers teammate and fellow protester Eric Reid brought a hush over the room when he called out the hypocrisy of the league in the matter of Kaepernick’s right to peacefully protest.

Rather than stand up for the still-unsigned quarterback, Reid said the NFL hung him out to dry. Reid is now a free agent and seems to be suffering a similar fate.

“Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us,” Reid said. “Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.”

Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long chided team owners for failing to hire Kaepernick. He suggested that much of the negativity and divisiveness that exists within the league and in the court of public opinion could easily be resolved if just one team would give the viable veteran a shot. Speaking on behalf of all the players in the room, Long said that they agree that Kaepernick should be on a roster without question.

Legal analysts are weighing in on the impact that the leaked tape could have on Colin Kaepernick’s collusion case against the NFL. Kaepernick’s legal team has evidence that his national anthem protests and his employment status were discussed in some detail.

Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann wrote that if Kaepernick can now find proof that at least one team agreed with the league or another team to deny him a job, he could be entitled to millions in damages and the league’s image would sustain a black eye that they would not soon remove.