President Trump’s weekend comments drew "direct rebukes from the owners of 10 [NFL] clubs, including some Trump friends," according to Will Hobson of the WASHINGTON POST. 49ers CEO Jed York issued one of the stronger rebukes, terming Trump’s comments "callous and offensive" and "contradictory to what this great country stands for." Perhaps the most surprising response came from the Patriots' Robert Kraft, a friend and donor to the president who "arranged for Trump to receive a Super Bowl ring" after the team's latest title. Kraft said, "I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the president on Friday." Kraft was one of three owners who "donated to the president’s campaign or inaugural committee who criticized Trump," along with the Browns' Jimmy and Dee Haslam and the Texans' Bob McNair. The Haslams called the president’s comments "misguided, uninformed and divisive." McNair said Trump’s remarks "were divisive and counterproductive to what our country needs right now." Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder waited until kickoff of the team's "SNF" game against the Raiders last night to "issue a statement that also didn’t mention Trump or his comments, instead ambiguously promising the team would 'work to address divisions and bring unity, civility and respect to our greater community.'" The Cowboys' Jerry Jones and the Panthers' Jerry Richardson were the only team owners that "remained silent as a political firestorm engulfed the league" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/25). In Sacramento, Matt Barrows writes the response for team owners was "nearly unanimous and boiled down to this: We're not going to tell players they can't quietly and peacefully exercise their right to protest" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 9/25).
KHAN CHANGES HIS STANCE: Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan "locked arms in a sideline show of unity" with the team's players prior to yesterday's game in London a a way to "protest Trump's comments." Khan, who is one of several team owners "who donated $1 million to Trump's presidential campaign, called it 'a privilege' to stand on the sideline with his team in protest." He also "chastised the president for the divisiveness" the comments caused" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 9/25). 49ers consultant Dr. Harry Edwards said, "Every owner, and especially the seven who supported him with both money and public association, are going to have to answer the questions: ‘What side of history are you on? Do you agree with Trump?’ If they agree or have no comment, they will be aligned against both the NFL commissioner and league office and the NFLPA. If they do not agree with his Alabama statements, they will in effect have separated themselves from both Trump and his alt-right constituency" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/25).
BLANK, FORD STAND STRONG: In Atlanta, D. Orlando Ledbetter notes Falcons Owner Arthur Blank and Lions Owner Martha Ford both "stood on the sidelines with their teams" prior to their game in Detroit. Blank said, "It’s unfortunate that the president chose to go in that direction and speak out the way he has. Love conquers and that kind of divisiveness and calling out accomplishes nothing, satisfies nothing." He added, "The issues that they point to are legitimate issues. They need to be talked about it. We need to make progress as a country moving forward with them. We don’t do it by creating walls. We don’t build walls" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 9/25). Ledbetter noted Blank was "fine with whatever the players elected to do." Blank: "What they do is their choice. I’m supportive of our players. I’m certainly supportive of their rights to express their freedom of speech" (AJC.com, 9/25). Meanwhile, in Detroit, Rod Beard writes having Ford on the field during the anthem “gave the players a boost, knowing they had her support, as well.” What meant more was that their support “came quickly, without a few days to marinate about the ramifications or how fans might react.” Lions S Glover Quin: “For Mrs. Ford and all the owners across the league to recognize that and quickly speak up -- there’s a difference between quickly speaking up and waiting a couple days -- that’s good” (DETROIT NEWS, 9/25).
Ross called Dolphins players kneeling during the anthem young men of character
JOHNSON TAKES THE LEAD: In N.Y., George Willis notes Jets Chair & CEO Christopher Johnson spoke to each of the Jets before the game and "asked if he could join them on the sidelines during the anthem." It "wasn’t an easy ask" knowing his brother and Jets Owner Woody Johnson's "tight relationship with the president." Woody Johnson is currently serving as the U.S. ambassador to the U.K (N.Y. POST, 9/25). In N.Y., Manish Mehta writes Christopher Johnson "chose the exact right path." Real leadership "requires grace in the face of ignorance." On a powerful day that "included freedom of expression across the NFL landscape, the man in charge of the team that everybody loves to lampoon exhibited a compassion that galvanized all of them." Jets QB Josh McCown, who stood next to Johnson during the anthem, said, "It meant everything. That was over my career one of the more special things. No matter who you are, when you’re at the top and you’re willing to stand with your guys. ... There’s nothing that reflects better leadership than that. When you say, ‘I’m with you guys. We’re together on this'" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/25).
SPANOS ON SIDELINE: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell notes Charger Chair Dean Spanos joined his team on the sideline for the anthem, "locking arms with players, illustrated another type of statement as owners and executives for several teams supported players in the protests that began last year." Bell: "That’s huge. And unprecedented optics in a league with its fair share of acrimony between management and players flowing from labor issues." Spanos said, "It’s hard not to be emotional. I respect every one of our players, and it’s important that they know I have their back side. I want to be there for them" (USA TODAY, 9/25). In California, Randy Kartje notes Spanos addressed his team and "offered no suggestions about how to react when the anthem played." He only told the room that he would "stand together with them on the sideline, no matter what." Chargers DE Chris McCain said, "He told us that he’s with us. He’s got our back" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 9/25). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Hoffman and Booth note Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie joined his players on the sideline, "locking arms as a group, while some of the team split off to surround" S Malcolm Jenkins, who has been outspoken about his desire for civic change (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25). Jenkins said, "I know Mr. Lurie specifically doesn't go on the field much, so for him to be down there and showing their support in their own ways in important. I was happy to see that league-wide" (CSNPHILLY.com, 9/24).
Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said he is fully behind his players' decision to kneel
HUNT MISSES OPPORTUNITY: The N.Y. TIMES' Hoffman & Booth note the Chiefs were in an interesting position, as team Chair & CEO Clark Hunt has "regularly stated that he prefers that his players stand for the anthem." Hunt somewhat backed away from that stance with a statement that read, in part, "We believe in honoring the American flag and supporting all of those whose sacrifices protect the many freedoms with have in this country, including the right to have differences of opinion." Some of the Chiefs players were "seen kneeling or sitting during the anthem" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25). In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes Hunt "missed a chance to lead." Mellinger: "Trump directly insulted Hunt’s family business, and Hunt responded with the electronic statement version of the guy who’s challenged to a fight and jumps into his friends’ arms, screaming, 'HOLD ME BACK! HOLD ME BACK!'" Hunt’s delay in speaking was "consistent with his deliberate nature." But the time "spent drafting a statement with help from confidants did little to ensure a clear or even strong message." Mellinger: "Trump’s words demanded a strong response, one way or the other, and Hunt brought a rubber mallet to a job that requires a sledgehammer" (K.C. STAR, 9/25).
UNFORESEEN DEVELOPMENT: The NATIONAL POST's Scott Stinson writes the fact that the NFL “pushed back so significantly is at least somewhat unexpected.” This is a league run by “exceedingly wealthy men, several of whom proudly call Trump a friend and who donated millions to his political cause.” In this one way, the “most divisive president in history has finally managed to be a uniter” (NATIONAL POST, 9/25). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Radnofsky & Beaton note the NFL is "typically considered to be a conservative institution, and many owners have avoided direct conflict with Washington, making the statements unusual" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/25).
STILL MORE TO DO: In Chicago, Shannon Ryan writes NFL owners "basically copy-and-pasted each other on Saturday, releasing statements vaguely calling for 'unity' and tsk-tsk-ing the president's words as 'divisive.'" The NFL "proved itself a slick PR machine once again." Ryan: "Forgive me, but I can't help but think the commissioner and owners' statements are nothing but spin in an effort to quell the rising voices of black players and their allies about racial injustice. ... Let's appreciate that the league and its owners did not remain silent." Instead of "advocating for the causes in which players have protested this season," owners "skimmed through their thesaurus looking for safe words." Ryan: "The NFL owners need to do more before we give them credit" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/25).