Patriots owner Robert Kraft calls Trump 'horrible and divisive' over NFL kneeling row in leaked audio

NFL boss attended White House reception in spring 

Andrew Buncombe
Seattle
Friday 22 November 2019 19:17
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Trump: NFL owners are scared of their players

A top owner in the NFL and a supposed friend of Donald Trump, blasted the president as “horrible and divisive”, in a newly obtained audio recording.

Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and who accepted Mr Trump’s invitation to take the team to the White House this spring after they won the Super Bowl for the fifth time, is heard attacking the president’s stance to the kneeling controversy that engulfed the league, and spread beyond.

The controversy started when players such Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, started kneeling during the playing of the national anthem.

They did to so to protest the frequently deadly interactions in the US between police and people of colour. Kaepernick, whose protests were picked and emulated by other players, including representatives of other sports, insisted the protest were not intended to disrespect the US flag or anthem, and he received the support of a number of military veterans.

Yet Mr Trump repeatedly denounced the protesters as unpatriotic and called on NFL owners to fire them.

“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,” Mr Trump said at a rally in Alabama in 2017. “Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!”

In the recording obtained by TMZ, Mr Kraft is heard denouncing the president’s approach.

“I must tell you, I think these dialogues are great,” Mr Kraft said. “But, the elephant in the room now in my opinion, is this kneeling, which every player has a right to do if they feel it’s right.”

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He added: “The problem we have is, we have a president that will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interest of the matter. It’s divisive and it’s horrible. And, it’s actually the opposite of what you all are trying to do.”

According to the New York Times, the meeting at which Mr Kraft was heard speaking in took place in New York during the middle of the 2017 season. It was apparently attended by 30 people, including owners, players and league executives.

Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly made a point to say “let’s make sure that we keep this confidential”.

Kaepernick was let go by the 49rs and filed a grievance against the NFL and its owners, accusing them of colluding to keep him out of the league. He eventually agreed an out of court settlement.

Mr Kraft said: “I just hope one of the things that can come out of here is that we find a way to be unified. And, be able to carry through and follow through.”

Speaking at the White House in April, Mr Kraft said it was the team’s “distinct honour” to celebrate the victory “with a very good friend”.

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