At a confidential meeting in New York last October, some 30 NFL owners, players and executives spoke directly to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric of criticizing players for kneeling during the national anthem.
The New York Times got the sound of the three-hour session and released a story Wednesday detailing the meeting.
“We have to be careful not to be harassed by Trump or anyone else,” said Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, referring to Trump’s critical tweets and NFL commentary. Lurie called the Trump presidency “disastrous” and urged players and owners not to be “divided”.
At the time, NFL ratings were down, fans were threatening to boycott and sponsors became disaffected by the league as more than 200 players knelt during the anthem as a sign of peaceful protest.
“The problem is that we have a president (Trump) who will use (kneel) as fodder to do his mission that I do not think is in the best interest of America,” said Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots . is a personal friend of Trump. Kraft donated $ 1 million to the Trump campaign through its LLC. Kraft refers to kneeling as “the elephant in the room” and calls Trump’s public comments “divisors and” horrible “.
The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling in 2016 to protest racial injustice and police brutality, was also a key issue at the meeting. Eric Reid, Kaepernick’s former teammate and the first player to kneel beside him, attended the meeting wearing a Kaepernick t-shirt. He expressed his concern that the QB was being rushed.
“I feel like he has been dragged to dry,” Reid said. “Everyone here talks about how much they support us … Nobody came forward and said we support Colin’s right to do that, we all let him become the # 1 public enemy in this country, and he still has no job. ”
Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula said the NFL was “under attack” and suggested the league needed a spokesperson – comparable to Charlton Heston’s former role with the National Rifle Association – to clean the image of the league.
“For us to have a face, as an Afro-American, at least one face that could be in the media,” said Pegula, “we could fall behind that”.
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair has urged players to stop kneeling.
“You have to ask your friends, stop this other business, go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you,” he said.
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