The NFL and NFLPA showed support for players and players' rights following remarks from President Donald Trump, who while speaking at a political rally on Friday, said NFL fans should boycott games and team owners should fire players who fail to stand for the national anthem prior to games.
"The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement released Saturday morning. "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."
"The peaceful demonstrations by some of our players have generated a wide array of responses. Those opinions are protected speech and freedom that has been paid for by the sacrifice of men and women throughout history. This expression of speech has generated thoughtful discussion in our locker rooms and in board rooms.
"However, the line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just 'shut up and play.'
"NFL Players do incredible things to contribute to their communities. NFL Players are part of a legacy of athletes in all sports who, throughout history, chose to be informed about the issues that impact them and their communities. They chose -- and still choose today -- to do something about those issues rather than comfortably living in the bubble of sports. Their decision is no different from the one made by countless others who refused to let 'what they do' define or restrict 'who they are' as Americans."
The responses came after Trump said, "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!' You know some owner is going to do that. He's going to say, 'That guy disrespects our flag; he's fired.' And that owner, they don't know it. They're friends of mine, many of them. They'll be the most popular person, for a week. They'll be the most popular person in this country."
Few owners have said anything publicly about players not standing for the anthem or making other gestures -- such as raising a fist during the playing of the anthem -- since free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick didn't stand during a Week 3 preseason game in 2016. Kaepernick said he's standing in protest of what he felt was unfair treatment of minorities by law enforcement and the legal system. Several players, like Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett and Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, have continued anthem protests initiated by Kaepernick, and have said they are doing so for the same reasons as Kaepernick did.
"Comments like we heard last night from the president are inappropriate, offensive and divisive. We are proud of our players, the vast majority of whom use their NFL platform to make a positive difference in our society."
"Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness. We need to seek to understand each other and have civil discourse instead of condemnation and sound bites. I know our players who kneeled for the anthem and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone. They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community, including working with law enforcement to bring people together. We all can benefit from learning, listening and respecting each other. Sports is a common denominator in our world. We all have the responsibility to use this platform to promote understanding, respect and equality."
"The callous and offensive comments made by the President are contradictory to what this great country stands for. Our players have exercised their rights as United States citizens in order to spark conversation and action to address social injustice. We will continue to support them in their peaceful pursuit of positive change in our country and around the world. The San Francisco 49ers will continue to work toward bringing communities, and those who serve them, closer together."
"It's unfortunate that the President decided to use his immense platform to make divisive and offensive statements about our players and the NFL. We strongly believe that players are leaders in our communities and positive influences. They have achieved their positions through tremendous work and dedication and should be celebrated for their success and positive impact. We believe it is important to support any of our players who choose to peacefully express themselves with the hope of change for good. As Americans, we are fortunate to be able to speak openly and freely."
Teresa Kaepernick, Colin's mother, responded to Trump referring to players as, "Sons of bitches," on Twitter, stating, "Guess that makes me a proud bitch."
The response to Trump's comments on social media has been substantial and wide-ranging.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport added this on Sunday morning: