NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a video statement earlier this month, in which he admitted that the league had been wrong for not listening to their players in the past, and expressed his support for their right to peacefully protest. Goodell's remarks were a surprising about-face from a league that distanced itself from Colin Kaepernick's protests during the national anthem in 2016.
As much as Goodell and the NFL want to be on the right side of history now that the Black Lives Matter movement has swept the entire world, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich spoke with the New York Times about the league's previous missteps, which he believes, included caving under the pressure from Donald Trump.
"A smart man is running the NFL and he didn't understand the difference between the flag and what makes the country great -- all the people who fought to allow [Colin] Kaepernick to have the right to kneel for justice," Popovich said. "The flag is irrelevant. It's just a symbol that people glom onto for political reasons."
In wake of Goodell's statement, star white players, like J.J. Watt and Drew Brees (after his noted controversy), have utilized their platforms to explain the true meaning behind the anthem protest, while others, such as Texans head coach Bill O'Brien and Baker Mayfield have vowed to take a knee this upcoming season.
Popovich recalled that during Kaepernick's protest, Goodell "got intimidated when Trump jumped on the kneeling [and] he folded." Trump infamously referred to the NFL players who were peacefully protesting as a "son of a bitch" at a 2017 rally in Alabama. "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. He’s fired,'" he said.
Trump has already threatened to no longer watch NFL games in a tweet posted on Saturday.
The NFL appears unfazed by Trump's personal boycott. For now.