Trump slammed for criticising footballers' anthem protests
American football players and team owners have united to denounce US president Donald Trump's remarks about kneeling for the national anthem before games.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a strong supporter of the president, yesterday expressed "deep disappointment" with Mr Trump and insisted that politicians could learn from the spirit of professional football that succeeds with teamwork.
"I'm deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the president," he said. "Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care about our community. I support their right to peacefully effect social change in a manner they feel is most impactful."
It came as 27 National Football League (NFL) players and staff knelt for The Star-Spangled Banner at the Jacksonville Jaguars v Baltimore Ravens game at Wembley in London yesterday.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement last year when he played for the San Francisco 49ers, refusing to stand for the anthem to protest the treatment of black people by police. He has not been signed by a new team for this season.
On Friday at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, Mr Trump was loudly applauded when he asked: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag say, 'Get that son of a b***h off the field. Out! He's fired?'"
Yesterday morning, he tweeted: "If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our flag and country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!"
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who has been criticised over Kaepernick's struggle to find a team, quickly condemned the president's comments.
"Divisive comments like these demonstrate a lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all players," he said.
Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula called Trump's remarks "divisive and disrespectful to the NFL community".
San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York, one of many team owners who donated $1m each to Trump's inaugural committee, said: "The callous and offensive comments made by the president are contradictory to what this great country stands for."
Green Bay Packers president and chief executive Mark Murphy is backing "any of our players who choose to peacefully express themselves".
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said the players who knelt "wanted to start a conversation".
"These are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone," he said. "They are making a difference in our community, including working with law enforcement to bring people together."
This week's games are sure to bring more protests, with Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver DeSean Jackson promising to make "a statement".