Trump Takes On NFL: Goodell Says League's Response Made Him Proud
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he was "proud" of the way the league and players reacted this weekend to President Trump's comments, according to Peter King of THE MMQB. Goodell last night said, "I spent a lot of time listening to our players and coaches and owners over the past two days. They really care about our league. I just think we need more understanding. I was trying to find out with the players and coaches, ‘How are you feeling? What’s going on in your locker rooms?’ They were trying to figure out ways to respond.” He said league needs to remain "focused on what the NFL is doing -- staying true to our values, unifying people and continuing an effort to understand and help improve our communities." Goodell: "People love coming together around football. We saw nothing but exciting football today. I think the public loves our game and recognizes the efforts we’re making with it.” He said he was not bothered by the possibility Trump was "on a crusade" against the league. He said, "We live in an imperfect society. A public discourse makes us strong." King notes Goodell did not say "how he personally felt when he first heard the Trump remarks early Saturday." However, a source said Goodell had “profound disappointment” (MMQB.SI.com, 9/25).
TAKING THE NEXT STEP: THE MMQB's King wonders where the league goes "from here." The players "may continue to poke the bear," and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "could too." Smith's "defiant tone" in a statement this weekend "made it clear the players wouldn’t back down to Trump." However, it is "unlikely you’ll see Goodell engage much with Trump’s warring words." King, on Trump: "I wouldn't expect him to go quietly into the Washington night" (MMQB.SI.com, 9/25). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes Goodell and Smith "both did what so many in Washington still seem unwilling to do." They "stood up to Trump, calling him out Saturday morning for what can only be described as a pathetic lack of leadership." Their "forceful answers stood in stark contrast to Trump’s blistering attack on those NFL players" (USA TODAY, 9/25). In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote Goodell "hasn't had the best of relationships with players," so this was a "great way for him to try to score some points, even if it seems orchestrated" (AJC.com, 9/23). Also in Atlanta, Mark Bradley wrote Goodell's response to Trump "sounded Rushmore-ready" (AJC.com, 9/23). CBS' Boomer Esiason said, "I never thought I would ever see what I'm seeing today. What I'm seeing today is a unity, as you use the word 'united,' a unity between the owners and the players like I've never seen before. So the conversation is started, the conversation is going" ("The NFL Today," CBS, 9/24). In DC, Sally Jenkins wrote Goodell and others "are getting it right, striking the perfect calm but resistant tone in response" to Trump. The NFL's response "adhered to civility." Rather than take Trump "head on," the league "chose simply to outclass him" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/24).
TAGLIABUE SPEAKS OUT: Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was a guest of Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson for yesterday's game in Charlotte against the Saints. In meeting the media before the game, Tagliabue was asked about Trump’s comments. He prefaced his remarks by stressing he is a private citizen and does not speak for the NFL. Tagliabue: “I know a little bit about NFL players and from my perspective, there are engaged in many, many positive things all across America, all the time, week in and week out.” He added, “For me, to single out any particular group of players, and to call them SOBs, to me, that’s insulting and disgraceful. I think that the players deserve credit, they should get credit for what they do, and when it comes to speech, they are entitled to speak, we are entitled to listen, we are entitled to agree or disagree for that matter. But we are not entitled to shut anyone’s speech down.” He went on the say, “NFL players are mature, they are thoughtful and they are active in the community. … We should be proud of them for being active” (THE DAILY).
CONTRARY TO REPORTS...: ESPN.com's Adam Schefter reported the NFLPA yesterday denied that Goodell and Smith "discussed how to handle" Trump's statements about player protests. A source said that Goodell and Smith "spent part of Saturday discussing how to best respond to the president's position that players who protest during the anthem should be fired." But yesterday afternoon, the NFLPA "issued a statement, saying the two men had not spoken." The same NFL source also said that Goodell "spoke to players" such as Eagles CB Malcolm Jenkins, a "leader among players seeking change through social activism" (ESPN.com, 9/24).