Head Of NFL Criticizes Trump’s ‘Divisive Comments’ On Protesting Players

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a press conference at the NFL's spring meeting, Tuesday, May 20, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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The morning after President Donald Trump called on National Football League owners to fire players protesting racism by kneeling during the national anthem, the NFL commissioner released a statement criticizing “divisive comments.”

“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,” Roger Goodell said in a Saturday statement that never mentioned Trump by name.

Trump’s remarks came during an Alabama campaign rally for Sen. Luther Strange.

The President opined that it was a “total disrespect of our heritage” for players protesting racial inequality and police brutality to refuse to stand during the “Star Spangled Banner, adding that any “son of a bitch” who does so should lose his job.

DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL player union, said that those athletes “no longer can afford to stick to sports.”

The union “will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks,” Smith said in a statement.

Trump poured fuel on the fire with a pair of Saturday afternoon tweets, saying anyone paid for the “privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL” should be fired for engaging in this particular form of protest.

Trump’s comments represent the second time in recent weeks that the White House has forcibly inserted itself in a debate over politics in sports.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly told reporters that an ESPN anchor should be fired for making critical comments about Trump.

ESPN anchor Jemele Hill’s tweets calling the President a “bigot” and “white supremacist” were a “fireable offense,” Sanders said.

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