Trump targets NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after message supporting players

President Trump is taking aim at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, questioning whether his statement supporting athletes’ rights to peacefully protest means that the league would stand by players who choose to kneel during the national anthem.

“Could it be even remotely possible that Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?” Trump asked on Twitter late Sunday, days after Goodell issued support for player protests and their calls to address systemic racism. 

The post served as Trump’s latest salvo in what has become a long-running and divisive debate over professional athletes choosing to take a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the demonstration in 2016, leading dozens of professional and amateur athletes to replicate it in the ensuing years.

Trump has repeatedly decried the protest, once suggesting that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the anthem. 

But Goodell last week issued support for NFL players after a group of the league’s most prominent African American athletes released a video montage demanding that the league condemn racism and admit it was wrong for attempting to silence them before. 

The video, featuring NFL stars such as Patrick Mahomes and Saquon Barkley, came as protests swept the nation in response to the police killing of George Floyd, an African American man who died last month after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. 

Goodell responded to the demands by issuing a recorded video statement in which he admitted that the league deserved blame for how it initially addressed player protests. While Goodell did not mention Kaepernick by name, the commissioner encouraged “all to speak out and peacefully protest.”

“Without black players there would be no National Football League, and the protests across the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff,” he added. 

Kaepernick has yet to be signed by an NFL team since kneeling during the anthem for the entire 2016 season. He settled a grievance with the league last year after accusing it of denying him a job over his political stance. 

The demonstration he started caused a firestorm for the league, with the president frequently commenting on it. At a rally in Alabama in September 2017, Trump said that he’d love to see owners terminate the contracts of players demonstrating. 

“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. He is fired,’ ” Trump said.

In 2018, the NFL instituted a policy that required players to “stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem” while on the field. However, the rule was quickly nixed after the NFL Players Association voiced strong opposition. 

The demonstration has gained renewed attention in wake of Floyd’s death. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees issued a lengthy apology last week after stating in a recent interview that kneeling during the national anthem amounted to disrespecting the flag. 

Trump said on Twitter that Brees should not have “taken back” his initial remarks, arguing that Americans should be “standing up straight and tall” during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Some players, such as running back Adrian Peterson, have already said they plan to kneel in protest when the NFL season begins in September.

Tags Colin Kaepernick Donald Trump Drew Brees kneeling during the national anthem NFL Roger Goodell

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video