The New York Times obtained audio of the three-hour meeting between NFL owners, players and executives last October, and it underscores the division between players and owners, and even between some owners. The newspaper posted a story summarizing the discussions on Wednesday.
Ironically, commissioner Roger Goodell said, “Let’s make sure that we keep this confidential,” to open the session.
Players wanted to discuss Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment
The players in the room – there were roughly 30 people in the room, sitting around a large table in league headquarters – made it clear that they believe Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed by owners for kneeling during the playing of the national anthem in protest of police brutality and other issues of social and racial injustice.
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long said, “If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive.”
Long said he didn’t want to lecture teams, but noted that “we all agree in this room as players that he [Kaepernick] should be on a roster.”
Owners who responded to Long did not make any commitments.
Later, Kaepernick’s former teammate, Eric Reid, said he felt like the quarterback had been hung out to dry.
“Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us,” Reid said, as the room fell quiet. “Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.”
Reid was the first player to kneel alongside Kaepernick. The safety and sometimes linebacker became a free agent last month and still has not been signed by another team.
Some owners were critical of President Donald Trump
This meeting, and a couple of others, were called after President Donald Trump resurrected an issue that had begun to die out, attacking players who protest as “sons of bitches” who deserved to be fired on the spot during a late-September rally in Alabama.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who donated to Trump and whom Trump counts as a friend, shared some of his thoughts on Trump’s repeated, misleading tweets about the league and players.
“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that [kneeling] as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” said Kraft. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”
Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said, “Another fact I want to throw out there: Many of us have no interest in supporting President Trump. Yes, there are some. There are some players who do too.”
Lurie also said, “But this is not where you brandish a group of people because they own assets in a sport we love, supporting what many perceive as, you know, one disastrous presidency. Don’t quote me.”
The Eagles had several players, including Long and safety Malcolm Jenkins and receiver Torrey Smith, who were active in terms of taking on social-justice issues, and were able to win the Super Bowl, debunking the notion that having interests outside of X’s and O’s are a “distraction.”
Owners were focused on the bottom line – money
NFL ratings have been on the decline for years, though some outside the league have focused only on the decline since Kaepernick and others began to protest (NASCAR television ratings have plummeted, and none of the drivers protest. Weird.), and owners pointed to those numbers as well as concerns expressed by league partners.
Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula complained that the league was “under assault,” and then used a lot of strange mixed metaphors in an attempt to make his point, saying things like, “To me, this is like a glacier moving into the ocean,” and, “We’re getting hit with a tsunami.”
Pegula also seemed to want to convince a black player to act as a spokesman to tell the world the great things owners and players are doing.
“For us to have a face, as an African-American, at least a face that could be in the media,” Pegula said, “we could fall in behind that.”
And Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who has put his foot in his mouth a couple of times over the last several months, told the players in the room to tell their teammates to stop kneeling in exchange for the owners donating to social justice causes.
“You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you,” McNair said.
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