While large portions of the country recover from Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Irma, and the very real threat of a nuclear standoff with North Korea looms, President Donald Trump continues to focus his energy on sports—specifically needling Stephen Curry, Colin Kaepernick, and now the entire NFL.
Saturday night, roughly a dozen NFL owners and executives joined league commissioner Roger Goodell in responding to comments Trump made Friday asking if owners would say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field” to any player who knelt in peaceful protest during the national anthem.
Representatives from the Tennessee Titans, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles and a handful of other teams released statements that ranged from politically correct, to milquetoast, to borderline condemnations.
“The callous and offensive comments made by the President are contradictory to what this great country stands for,” read a statement issued by 49ers CEO Jed York. “Our players have exercised their rights as United States citizens in order to spark conversation and action to address social injustice.”
With apparently no intention of reversing course or silently letting the matter run its course through the news cycle, Trump reignited the discourse with a tweet-storm Sunday morning.
“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!,” Trump tweeted. “...NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
After Patriots quarterback Tom Brady prominently displayed Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker in 2015, it was particularly telling to see Patriots’ Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft release a carefully worded statement in response to Trump.
“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the statements released by the President on Friday,” Kraft’s statement read in part.
Last month, Kraft gave Trump a commemorative Super Bowl ring during the team’s visit to the White House. He previously praised Trump for helping lift his spirits after his wife Myra Kraft died in 2011.
With several owners—including Texans owner Robert McNair, who donated to Trump’s campaign—opting not to issue statements and speculation that entire teams may take a knee during the national anthem, Sunday’s NFL action may draw the nation’s attention to see how things play out.