After President Donald Trump called on them to fire players who protest by kneeling during the National Anthem, NFL owners have released statements supporting their players. Many have highlighted their commitments to local communities and their First Amendment right to express their opinions. The newest statement, coming just hours before the 1:00 p.m. Sunday games kicked off, came from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who was at the White House in April to celebrate his team’s Super Bowl victory and is a friend of Trump’s.
Although several NFL owners supported Trump and some donated to his inaugural committee, they stood with their players after Trump’s rant at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama Friday night that was supposed to be in support of Senator Luther Strange. Trump focused part of his speech on protests of the National Anthem by players, which was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season to protest the treatment of African Americans by police.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said during the speech. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
Trump kept the rhetoric going on Twitter. “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend,” he wrote on Sunday. “NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “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. 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.”
So far, no player has been fired for kneeling during the National Anthem, although Kaepernick remains an un-signed free agent. Below are the responses from every team owner in the NFL so far. This list will be updated.
Statement from Miami Dolphins Owner and Founder of Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) Stephen Ross:
“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. I know our players who kneeled for the anthem and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone. They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community, including working with law enforcement to bring people together. We all can benefit from learning, listening and respecting each other. Sports is a common denominator in our world. We all have the responsibility to use this platform to promote understanding, respect and equality.”
New England Patriots
STATEMENT FROM PATRIOTS CHAIRMAN AND CEO ROBERT KRAFT
“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday. I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger. There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics. I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”
New York Jets
The New York Jets didn’t issue a statement until after kickoff. Trump named owner Woody Johnson the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K.
“Football and politics don’t mix easily. Fans come to NFL games to watch great competition on the playing field and that’s where our focus should be,” the team said in a statement.
The Steelers and Browns owners haven’t issued statements.
Owner Jim Irsay issued the following statement:
“I am troubled by the President’s recent comments about our league and our players. Sports in America have the unique ability to bring people from all walks of life and from different points of view together to work toward or root for a common goal, and the Indianapolis Colts are proud to be a part of that tradition in our home city and state.
The vast majority of players in the NFL — especially those who have worn and continue to wear the Horseshoe — have donated millions of dollars to charities, raised money for those affected by recent hurricanes, created charitable foundations, visited schools, mentored students, worked in homeless shelters, cleaned up parks, and put in hours of their personal time toward improving their communities and the lives of those around them.
That’s the spirit in which this nation was founded, and we all need to work tirelessly to bring people together to take on the challenges that face us and give back to the people of our communities. More so than any result on the field, that is a common goal worth rooting for.”
From Owner Amy Adams Strunk:
“I am proud to stand with our players and support them in their work on and off the football field. I completely agree with Commissioner Goodell that we are better off as a nation when we are unified and pulling together. I have seen that kind of attitude first-hand in Tennessee and across our country in the many benevolent and public-spirited efforts of our NFL players, often without any public recognition.
Our players make public contributions day-in and day-out and when I hear anyone making disparaging remarks about them, I know it has to be the result of not knowing what they bring to our communities or what they have accomplished.”
Although Shad Khan had not issued a statement before kick-off in London, he locked arms with his players and kneeled during the National Anthem. Khan was among the owners who donated to Trump’s inauguration fund.
Khan later issued the following statement:
“It was a privilege to stand on the sidelines with the Jacksonville Jaguars today for the playing of the U.S. national anthem at Wembley Stadium. I met with our team captains prior to the game to express my support for them, all NFL players and the league following the divisive and contentious remarks made by President Trump, and was honored to be arm in arm with them, their teammates and our coaches during our anthem. Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms – race, faith, our views and our goals. We have a lot of work to do, and we can do it, but the comments by the President make it harder. That’s why it was important for us, and personally for me, to show the world that even if we may differ at times, we can and should be united in the effort to become better as people and a nation.”
The Texans owners haven’t issued statements.
Owner Joe Ellis issued the following statement:
“Our players have shown a tremendous commitment to raising awareness for important societal issues by using their platform in a positive way.
“In addition to their hard work off the field, we have great admiration for their dedication to making our team the absolute best it can be. They’ve made incredible sacrifices to reach this level, and we recognize they give their all to our team and fans each and every day.
“As an organization, we could not be more proud, appreciative and grateful for our players. We’ll continue to support them and work together to advocate for values of respect, diversity and inclusion.”
Los Angeles Chargers
Owner Dean Spanos issued the following statement:
“I wholeheartedly agree with the commissioner’s statement. The NFL and its players, more than anything, have been a force for good. What our country needs right now is a message of unity, civility and mutual respect.”
The Chiefs and Raiders owners haven’t issued a statement yet. However, the entire Raiders offensive line, the only line made up exclusively of black players in the NFL, will protest together.
New York Giants
The Redskins and Cowboys still haven’t issued a statement.
From Owner Martha Firestone Ford:
“Our game has long provided a powerful platform for dialogue and positive change in many communities throughout our nation.
“Thanks primarily to our players, the NFL also has been a unifying force in our country and impactful change has and hopefully will continue to be the result of peaceful expression, done so in order to highlight social injustices of all kind.
“Negative and disrespectful comments suggesting otherwise are contrary to the founding principles of our country, and we do not support those comments or opinions.”
Green Bay Packers
From President/CEO 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.”
The Bears and Vikings still haven’t issued a statement.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Panthers and Saints haven’t issued a statement yet.
Although the Cardinals ownership hasn’t issued a statement, a news post about their players’ and coach Bruce Arians’ response to Trump is prominently featured on their website. Here’s what Arians said during a press conference:
“I thought the commissioner had a great statement, and I agree with it. I’ve been in locker rooms for 25 years, and some of the most reputable men I’ve ever met wear that uniform. To even overcome the things in their life to get to the NFL is amazing. What they’ve done in the last month for hurricane relief victims speaks volumes of what we’re all about in the NFL.”
From President Peter McLoughlin:
“We fully support our players’ use of their freedom of speech and peaceful action to highlight the existing racial and other divides in our country. Our players completely respect the military and veterans of our country; however, they believe these issues need to come to the forefront.”