Newly released audio recordings of a secret meeting between NFL players and executives proves team owners all but agreed to blackball Colin Kaepernick in an effort to pacify President Donald Trump.
According to a New York Times report, about 30 NFL owners, players and league executives gathered for nearly three hours in October to discuss the president’s public attacks against the league and its players over protests during the national anthem. Trump dubbed players who protested as “son’s of b-tches” who should be booted from the league.
“Let’s make sure that we keep this confidential,” commissioner Roger Goodell said at the start of the meeting.
Leaked audio of the talk revealed players’ desire to know why Kaepernick, who started the anthem protests to highlight police violence against Blacks and racial injustice in America, remained unsigned by a team. The former quarterback led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013 and the NFC Championship game the following year.
Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long went to bat for Kaepernick but said he wouldn’t “lecture” any team on what quarterback to sign.
“If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive,” Long said at the meeting. “We all agree in this room as players that he should be on a roster.”
Owners danced around the issue, however, with Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie telling players that rallying for social justice “wasn’t about one person.” Meanwhile, New England Patriots owner Robert Craft, an avid Trump supporter, decried “this kneeling” as another “elephant in the room.”
“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that 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.”
NFL owners expressed concern over Trump’s criticism and seemed intent on avoiding any more jabs from him if they could help it. The president’s incessant digs on social media have turned fans against the league, and owners warned players against falling prey to his tactics.
“…We’ve got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whomever else,” said Lurie, who described Trump’s presidency “disastrous.” “We have to find a way to not be divided and not get baited.”
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan assured fellow owners that the worst from Trump had come and gone, however, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair had a stern directive for players who refused to quit protesting.
“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.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross raised the idea of a “March on Washington” of sorts by NFL players and owners, but safety Eric Reid, steered the conversation back to Kaepernick, his former teammate.
“I feel like he was hung out to dry,” said Reid, who wore a Kaepernick T-shirt over his dress shirt and tie. ” … Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us. 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, who also participated in the on-field protests, remains unsigned as well after refusing to end his demonstrations.
After a brief exchange over whether the NFL should appoint an official spokesman, preferably a Black one, Kaepernick’s name wasn’t mentioned for the rest of the meeting.