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Volume 24 No. 135

Sunday, Sept. 24, 2:30pm ET

Weekend Rap .... Latest News .... Historic Day In NFL

NFLers Respond To Trump's Comments With Pregame Protests

NFL players today responded to President Trump's comments and tweets over the weekend with protests prior to the 1:00pm ET games. Nearly the entire Steelers team "stayed in the locker room" ahead of their game with the Bears in Chicago. The lone exception was OT Alejandro Villanueva, who "served in the United States Army" (, 9/24). Patriots QB Tom Brady stood with his "hand over his chest," while "about 20 Patriots" took a knee (, 9/24). Falcons Owner Arthur Blank and Lions Owner Martha Firestone Ford both linked arms with players "during the National Anthem" (, 9/24). Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie also "stood beside" CB Malcolm Jenkins, who "raised his right fist" (, 9/24).

The protests come after Trump's comments Friday at a rally in Alabama. Among the comments on player protests: 

  • "You know what's hurting the game? .... When people like yourselves turn on television, and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem." 
  • "The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it's one player, leave the stadium, I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway."
  • "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!'"

Trump also commented on the NFL's awareness of concussions, saying, "Last week -- I watched for a couple of minutes. And two guys -- just really beautiful tackle. Boom: 15 yards! The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she's so proud of him -- they're ruining the game." He added, "They're ruining the game. Hey look, that's what they want to do. They want to hit, OK? They want to hit. But it is hurting the game" (, 9/23).

Trump this morning tweeted: "If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend! ... NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S." NFL Exec VP/Communications Joe Lockhart also tweeted, "Tens of millions of Americans, and fans around the world, will come together today to celebrate our great game and our great country."

NFL Owners Respond To Trump; Goodell, De Smith Meet On Strategy

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded to President Trump's comments, saying they "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" (NFL). An NFLPA statement: "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.' ... No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights" (NFLPA).

At press time, many NFL organizations put out statements on Trump's comments. Excerpts include: 

  • Falcons' Arthur Blank: "Creating division or demonizing viewpoints that are different than our own accomplishes nothing positive."
  • Patriots' Robert Kraft: "I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday. ... Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community."
  • Dolphins' Stephen Ross: "Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness."
  • Texans' Bob McNair: "I hope the reaction from our players results in positive action for our league."
  • 49ers' Jed York: "The callous and offensive comments made by the President are contradictory to what this great country stands for."
  • Giants' John Mara and Steve Tisch: "Comments like we heard last night from the president are inappropriate, offensive and divisive."
  • Bills' Terry and Kim Pegula: "President Trump's remarks were divisive and disrespectful to the entire NFL community."
  • Jaguars' Shahid Khan: "Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms -- race, faith, our views and our goals."
  • Raiders' Mark Davis: "I can no longer ask our team to not say something while they are in a Raider uniform. The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class."
  • Ravens' Steve Bisciotti: "We recognize our players' influence. We respect their demonstration and support them 100 percent."
  • Titans' Amy Adams Strunk: "I am proud to stand with our players and support them in their work on and off the field."
  • Rams' Stan Kroenke: "We are proud of the work that our players and all NFL players do to make our communities better places to live."
  • Colts' Jim Irsay: "I am troubled by the President's recent comments about our league and our players."
  • Seahawks' Peter McLoughlin: "We fully support our players' use of their freedom of speech and peaceful action to highlight the existing racial and other divides in our country."
  • Bears' George McCaskey: "The Chicago Bears are proud to support our players, coaches and all members of our organization to bring peace and unity together through football."
  • Vikings' Zygi and Mark Wilf: "We are proud of our players, coaches and staff for the important role they play in our community."
  • Browns' Jimmy and Dee Haslam: "We must not let misguided, uninformed and divisive comments from the President or anyone else deter us from our efforts to unify."
  • Bucs' Joel Glazer: "We are equally committed to the principles of inclusivity and respect for differing points of view that should be afforded to all Americans."
  • Eagles' Jeffrey Lurie: "Every day I see the genuine dedication and hard work of our players."
  • Chargers' Dean Spanos: "The NFL and its players, more than anything, have been a force for good."
  • Broncos' Joe Ellis: "We could not be more proud, appreciative and grateful for our players."
  • Packers' Mark Murphy: "It's unfortunate that the president decided to use his immense platform to make divisive and offensive statements about our players and the NFL."
  • Lions' Martha Firestone Ford: "Our game has long provided a powerful platform for dialogue and positive change in many communities."
  • A Saints statement reads: "Our organization takes great pride in equality and inclusion and find the comments by the President disappointing and inappropriate relative to our players on this issue" (Mult., 9/24).
  • Jets said that they would "not be making any kind of statement." Woody Johnson is now the U.S. ambassador to the U.K. (, 9/23). 
  • A Panthers spokesperson said that Owner Jerry Richardson "would not be issuing a statement" (, 9/23).
  • Steelers' Art Rooney II: "The commissioner made an appropriate statement and I have nothing to add at this time" (, 9/23).
  • At presstime, the Bengals, Chiefs, Redskins, Cowboys and Cardinals had yet to make a statement publicly (THE DAILY).

Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith spent yesterday on the phone "discussing the comments that the president made and what’s the best way going forward." It is a conversation that has "filtered down to every level of the NFL because all the coaches are handling it" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 9/24). Goodell and Smith "also spoke" to Eagles CB Malcolm Jenkins, a "leader and activist in the reform for change." Goodell and Smith "recognize that this is an opportunity for the NFL and its players to help unite the country, as it has attempted to do after other challenging times" (, 9/24). The league and union "united Saturday in a manner unseen in years" (AP, 9/24). The WASHINGTON POST's Sally Jenkins writes the league and union are "getting it right, striking the perfect calm but resistant tone" (9/24). 

CBS Sports Network’s Amy Trask said, “Each of those owners has different views, different opinions, different methods of running his business and each owner is going to decide how to respond and how to run his business. We did see a lot of continuity in a lot of teams and I have every confidence, because this was my experience, that talking points were sent out. Not as a dictate but that the league probably sent a note to owners saying you know what here are points you can include. It wouldn’t be a mandate, but some talking points” (“That Other Pregame Show,” CBSSN, 9/24).

Jags' Khan Locks Arms With Players Before London Game With Ravens

The Jaguars beat the Ravens 44-7 this morning at Wembley Stadium in London, and Jags Owner Shahid Khan before the game "locked arms" on the field with his players during the national anthem. Many players from both the Ravens and Jaguars also "knelt during" the anthem. All players "stood up for a later performance of 'God Save The Queen'" (, 9/24). Khan donated $1M "to the Trump inauguration fund" (REUTERS, 9/24). There was a "near packed-out" crowd on hand for the game (, 9/24).

NFL Exec VP/Int'l Mark Waller said that he "foresees expansion of regular-season football into England in the coming years on several fronts." Waller said that efforts continue to "try to approximate what a London-based NFL team might experience, which could mean eight regular-season games being played there in the near future, as well as one team playing in London more than once in the same season" (, 9/24).

Tagliabue Calls Trump's Remarks “Insulting And Disgraceful”

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is a guest of Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson for today’s game in Charlotte against the Saints. In meeting the media before the game, Tagliabue was asked about President Trump’s comments on the NFL and players, and Tagliabue prefaced his remarks by stressing he is a private citizen and doesn’t speak for the NFL. “But I think 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.”

Tagliabue: “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). 

Execs Optimistic On NFL Ratings For Week 3 After Trump Comments

TV execs are cautiously optimistic that the NFL’s TV ratings will be up this weekend following President Trump’s remarks based in part on the attention that is been placed on the games from the remarks and the debate that followed. It is always a folly to predict TV ratings, but some broadcast execs say they are particularly enthused by ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” matchup that features the Cowboys, the league’s highest-rated team. That game will be compared to last year’s “MNF” from this week that ran up against the first Trump-Clinton debate and produced the lowest viewership on record. One exec said, “It’s a great chance for the league to be up as a whole."

In a series of five Sunday morning tweets, Fox Sports executive Mike Mulvihill tweeted that he’s most interested in initial tune in from 1:00-1:15pm ET, when people will watch to view what happens during the anthem and time spent viewing numbers. “Increase in reach and decrease in TSV this week would imply a surge among people who don't typically watch,” he tweeted. “The reach number across all Sun/Mon games is probably most instructive in seeing whether this twitter maelstrom has mattered at all.”

Quote Worthy: Trump Comments Dominate NFL Pregame Shows

President Trump’s statements dominated the NFL news shows, with all of them leading with the story and spending a great deal of time on it. Among today’s top quotes. Charles Barkley said, “We as players have to figure out what to do next. We have to stop worrying about who’s kneeling or who is not kneeling. We have to figure out a way to go back in our communities and make a difference.” CBS’ Phil Simms: “In a sad way, maybe this is going to be good. This is going to move the conversation forward.” CBS’ Boomer Esiason: “In my lifetime I never thought I would ever see what I’m seeing today. What I’m seeing today is a unity, as you used 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). “Face The Nation” host John Dickerson: “What’s striking here is the president here took a divisive issue and picked a side and has now inflamed it rather than traditionally what presidents try to do, which is lower those flames.” (“The NFL Today,” CBS, 9/24).

Fox' Curt Menefee: "A lot of these players have feelings, they’ve got emotions, they’ve got opinions and many of these players I spoke to feel their voice is not being heard.” Fox' Jay Glazer: “When else do you have the commissioner, the head of the players union, the players, the officials, the owners, the management, everybody unified under the same thing?" ("Fox NFL Sunday," Fox, 9/24). Fox' Tony Gonzalez said of Trump, “All he did was galvanize the NFL to come together from ownership with the players and not even just football. This goes to every sport now, basketball, baseball” ("Fox NFL Kickoff," Fox, 9/24). 

CBSSN's London Fletcher: “One thing about professional athletes, African-American athletes, when you back us up into the corner, we are going to come out fighting. That is what we do" ("That Other Pregame Show," CBSSN, 9/24). NFL Net's Rich Eisen: "This league, these teams will not be divided because they love each other. They respect each other. They want to be heard about racial equality. They are being heard" ("NFL Gameday Morning," NFL Network, 9/24).

A's Maxwell Becomes First MLB Player To Kneel For National Anthem

A's C Bruce Maxwell yesterday became the first MLB player to "kneel during the national anthem" and "plans to continue kneeling." Maxwell "held a meeting" before the game against the Rangers to "let his teammates know about his decision," along with manager Bob Melvin and GM David Forst. The A's issued a statement on Twitter that read, "We respect and support all our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression." MLB also issued a statement after Maxwell's decision that read, "Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/24).

Trump Rescinds Warriors' Invitation To Visit White House

President Trump tweeted yesterday that he does "not want the Warriors to visit" the White House after hearing Warriors G Stephen Curry "reiterate his stance that he would not want to visit" to celebrate the team's NBA championship (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 9/24). Curry said, "I don’t know why he feels the need to target certain individuals rather than others. I have an idea of why, but it’s kind of beneath the leader of a country to go that route." Warriors coach Steve Kerr: "We would, in normal times, easily be able to set aside political views, and go visit and have a great time" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/24). A statement from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: "I was in favor of the team visiting the White House and thought it was a rare opportunity for these players to share their views directly with the President. ... I am proud of our players for taking an active role in their communities and continuing to speak out on critically important issues" (NBA).

Meanwhile, the Penguins in a statement this morning said they have "accepted an invitation" to attend the White House this year after winning the Stanley Cup. The team added, "Any agreement or disagreement with a president's politics, policies or agenda can be expressed in other ways. However, we very much respect the rights of other individuals and groups to express themselves as they see fit" (Penguins).

UNC Men's Basketball Championship Team Will Not Visit White House

The North Carolina men's basketball team will "not be going to the White House" to celebrate its championship, but it "has to do with a scheduling conflict and nothing to do" with President Trump. UNC Senior Associate AD/Strategic Communications Steve Kirschner said, "We couldn't find a date that worked for everyone. We offered up eight or nine dates, but none of them worked" (, 9/23). UNC was "invited to visit" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/24).

T-Mobile Signs Deal To Sponsor "LoL" World Championship

T-Mobile has signed a deal with Riot Games to sponsor the '17 "League of Legends" World Championship, which delivers the largest esports audience in the world. T-Mobile will be the presenting sponsor of a new segment during the event's streaming broadcast, “The Best of the Rift,” which spotlights the most outstanding players each week. The tournament began yesterday and runs through Nov. 4.

Red Wings Fans Impressed With Little Caesars Arena Hockey Debut

Red Wings players "admitted to nerves and occasional distractions" as the team "inaugurated Little Caesars Arena" with a 5-1 exhibition win over the Bruins last night. There "wasn't much atmosphere at the start -- there were pockets of empty seats in every section -- but the place got loud and lively" once the Red Wings scored (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 9/24). Enthusiasm "came easy" for the Red Wings during the game. But the size of the crowd "underwhelmed" as the arena was "just about slightly over half full." Little Caesars Arena "seemed to impress pretty much everyone, despite an occasional glitch." But the arena "impresses in ways" that any $869M sports venue should, and the Ilitches and the Red Wings "got a lot of things right" (DETROIT NEWS, 9/24).

NHL Wraps Play In China With 13,000 In Attendance For Kings-Canucks

The Kings on Saturday defeated the Canucks 4-3 in a shootout at Wukesong Arena in Beijing to sweep the NHL's first games in China, capping a push by the league to "popularize the sport" in the country ahead of it hosting of the '22 Winter Games. Organizers put attendance at "almost 13,000, including many drawn from the Chinese capital's expatriate population" (AP, 9/23). 

For Thursday's game in Shanghai, there were "several yawning sections of empty seats." Hockey HOFer Phil Esposito, who has "become a kind of unofficial ambassador for the game in China," said, "Personally, I think the NHL blew it. You have got to promote. This game tonight -- I looked in the papers. There wasn't a goddamn word about it. Not one word." Canucks President Trevor Linden said, "It's not ideal" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/22).

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Hosts Final Fall NASCAR Race

Today mark's New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s "final fall" Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Next year, the September date, along with the Camping World Truck Series race, will "move to Las Vegas Motor Speedway." NHMS' 21-year streak of "hosting two Cup races will end." NHMS GM David McGrath said, "It’s a little bittersweet. ... So it’s hard. But I get it. I understand the business end of the way our business works. I completely support that" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/24).

Speed Reads....

NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir George Atallah said that the union has asked the Patriots to "repair what it believes to be a field that poses an injury risk to players" at Gillette Stadium. The NFLPA was "expecting that the field, which was susceptible to having cleat marks left in the surface, was improved" before today's game against the Texans (, 9/24).

Free agent WR Victor Cruz worked with Yahoo Sports' live streaming coverage as a content creator for today's Ravens-Jaguars game in London (Yahoo).

Former NFLer Vince Wilfork was at today's Texans-Patriots game "tailgating as part of a promotion involving Kingsford Charcoal" (, 9/23).

MLB Giants President Larry Baer said that the team is having "internal discussions on how to extend the protective netting" behind homeplate at AT&T Park and "hope to announce something next week" (, 9/22).

A woman in the stands at Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday was "hit in the mouth by a foul ball." The White Sox said that she "refused treatment" (, 9/23).

Quick Hits....

"That was an eye opener for me" -- NBC's Mike Tirico, on Patriots Owner Robert Kraft's statement on President Trump referring specifically to "the president," while other team statements did not (“Meet the Press,” NBC, 9/24)

"He's now using sports as the platform to try to divide us. We all know how much sports brings us together. ... It's not something I can be quiet about" -- Cavaliers F LeBron James, in response to President Trump's comments about the Warriors on Friday (, 9/23).

"I've been in (NFL) locker rooms for 25 years, and some of the most reputable men I've met wear that uniform. To overcome things in their lives to get to the NFL is amazing. What they've done in the last month for hurricane relief victims speaks volumes of what we're all about in the NFL" -- Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, in response to President Trump's comments (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 9/24).

"No, I don't agree with the president. That's ridiculous. Check the Constitution" -- Univ. of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, in response to President Trump's comments (DETROIT NEWS, 9/24).

"First tie ever" -- Jet Sports Management Owner & CEO B.B. Abbott, when asked which of his clients, Red Sox P Chris Sale or Indians P Corey Kluber, would win the AL Cy Young Award this season (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/24).

Weekend Hot Reads....

SI wrote under the header, "Can An NFL Owner Legally 'Fire' A Player For Protesting?" The answer is "probably yes, though it is by no means a sure thing." The standard NFL player contract -- which every player signs -- "offers considerable discretion to teams in the decision to terminate a player's employment." A team "might reason that if a player's protest offends the President, then it has adversely affected the team." But there are "many reasons to believe such a move would backfire badly on the owner and give rise to a difficult crisis for the league."


Twitter Me This....

Sunday Comic....

A sneak preview of SportsBusiness Journal's weekly editorial cartoon:

Today's Back Pages....

The Weekend Rap offers today's back page sports covers from some of North America's major metropolitan tabloids:

 N.Y. Post  N.Y. Daily News Newsday   Boston HeraldChicago Sun-Times

Hit The Ground Running: The Week Ahead

THE DAILY’s Week Ahead: Sept. 25-Oct. 1

• ATP Chengdu Open begins (China)
• ATP Shenzhen Open begins (China)
• WTA Tashkent Open (Uzbekistan)


• Artistic Gymnastics World Championships begin (Montreal, Canada)

• LPGA MacKayson New Zealand Women’s Open begins (Windross Farm Golf Course, Auckland)
• Presidents Cup begins (Liberty National Golf Club, Jersey City, N.J.)


• EA’s “FIFA 18” releases

• WTA China Open (Beijing)


• Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Apache Warrior 400 (Dover Int’l Speedway)
• F1 Malaysia Grand Prix (Sepang Int’l Circuit)

If you know of any events that should be in our calendar, send them to us at