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The National Football League responded Saturday to comments from President Donald Trump regarding the league and players’ protests during the national anthem.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that Trump’s “divisive comments” showed “an unfortunate lack of respect” for the league and players.
“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. “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.”
Trump went after the NFL on Friday night at a rally for Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange. The president suggested that any player that takes a knee or protests during the national anthem should be fired.
“Get that son of a b—- off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!” Trump said.
A growing number of NFL players have demonstrated during the national anthem after the protest was kicked off last year by quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is not on an NFL roster – which some believe is due to his protest. Trump previously took credit for Kaepernick’s unemployment in May.
Protests of a similar nature have become more common across the NFL, with players including Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch, Seth DeValve, and Eagles teammates Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long all demonstrating in their own way before kickoff.
Richard Sherman, the Seattle Seahawks cornernback who has been outspoken about his dislike of Trump in the past, also tweeted Saturday morning that the president’s attacks should be condemned.
“The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!!” Sherman tweeted.
Devin McCourty of the New England Patriots also responded to the president on Twitter.
Ppl said it was disrespectful not going to the White House..I’m sure they are quiet about us being called “sons of bitches” ???????????(D-Mac)
— Devin&Jason McCourty (@McCourtyTwins) September 23, 2017
Trump also said that the recent decline in NFL ratings is due to too many penalties for hard hits.
“They had that last week, I watched for a coupled of minutes,” the president said. “Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle. Boom! 15 yards. The referee goes on television, his wife’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game.”
Here is Goodell’s statement in full:
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. 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.”