Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League, criticized as “divisive” President Donald Trump’s remarks about the league and call to fire players who kneel during the national anthem.
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” Goodell said in an official statement on Saturday the morning after Trump delivered a fiery speech at an Alabama political rally for Sen. Luther Strange.
“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,” he continued. “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.”
Trump gave a rambling talk at a rally in Alabama on Friday for Sen. Luther Strange, who is seeking election to a full term after being appointed to the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president paused for an unrelated rant about professional football players who participate in protests against police brutality and the treatment of African Americans by kneeling during the national anthem.
Specifically, Trump suggested that the NFL should fire them.
“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?'” Trump said.
“He’s fired!” he continued. “You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.'”
Trump added that he thinks any owner who fired a player for that reason would be “the most popular person in the country.”
The remarks immediately lit up social media on Friday night, and many observers said that many more NFL players are likely to take a knee on Sunday in protest of the president.
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has led a movement to take a knee during the national anthem as a gesture of protest against police brutality. It is widely believed that he is being blacklisted by NFL owners for his political views and, since being dropped by San Francisco, he has not been signed to another team.