NFL owners voice support for players after Donald Trump's call to 'fire' protesters

A handful of NFL franchises commented individually Saturday in response to the president's profane remarks against players who protest social justice issues during the national anthem.

In response to a public and profane request by Donald Trump to have NFL players "fired" for protesting social justice issues during the national anthem, executives from a haldful of teams on Saturday condemned the president's remarks in strongly worded statements of support toward player activism.

"Comments like we heard last night from the president are inappropriate, offensive and divisive," Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch said in a joint message issued Saturday morning. "We are proud of our players, the vast majority of whom use their NFL platform to make a positive difference in our society."

By the afternoon, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross followed suit, calling for unity in society and the NFL.

MORE: NFL players react to Donald Trump's comments about anthem protests

"Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness," read the statement, distributed via the Dolphins' official Twitter handle . "We need to seek to understand each other and have civil discourse instead of condemnation and sound bites. I know our players who kneeled for the anthem and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone.

"They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community, including working with law enforcement to bring people together. We all can benefit from learning, listening and respecting each other. Sports is a common denominator in our world. We all have the responsibility to use this platform to promote understanding, respect and equality."

Jed York, the 49ers' CEO, said the team "will continue to work toward bringing communities, and those who serve them, closer together."

"The callous and offensive comments made by the President are contradictory to what this great country stands for," York wrote in the statement, posted to his personal Twitter handle. "Our players have exercised their rights as United States citizens in order to spark conversation and action to address social injustice. We will continue to support them in their peaceful pursuit of positive change in our country and around the world."

Trump made his comments Friday night during a Republican rally in Huntsville, Ala., in part blaming player protests for the NFL's television ratings decline. The president previously has singled out controversial free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem as a demonstration against the treatment of people of color in America.

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b— off the field right now. He is fired,'" Trump said at the rally.

Dozens of players past and present used their platforms to respond, mostly in opposition, to Trump's speech overnight and throughout Saturday morning.

The NFL followed with a more general message issued on behalf of commissioner Roger Goodell, who, without specifically naming Trump, called his comments "divisive" but avoided the subject of player protests.

"The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. … Divisive comments like these 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."

Goodell previously has voiced support of players' rights to protest and asked fans to respect those rights.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith backed the players more pointedly in his response to the Trump comments.

On Twitter, Trump doubled and then tripled down on his message following the NFL's statement. He also attacked the NBA champion Warriors, revoking their invitation to visit the White House after star Stephen Curry said Friday that the team likely would not attend.

Here are statements from more NFL owners and executives as they filter in:

Steelers president Art Rooney II

"I believe the Commissioner made an appropriate statement, and I have nothing to add at this time."

Packers president and CEO 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. We strongly believe that players are leaders in our communities and positive influences. They have achieved their positions through tremendous work and dedications and should be celebrated for their success and positive impact. We believe it is important to support any of our players who choose to peacefully express themselves with the hope of change for good. As Americans, we are fortunate to be able to speak openly and freely."

Titans owner Amy Adams

"I am proud to stand with our players and support them in their work on and off the football field. I completely agree with Commissioner Goodell that we are better off as a nation when we are unified and pulling together. I have seen that kind of attitude first-hand in Tennessee and across our country in the many benevolent and public-spirited efforts of our NFL players, often without any public recognition.

"Our players make public contributions day-in and day-out and when I hear anyone making disparaging remarks about them, I know it has to be the result of not knowing what they bring to our communities or what they have accomplished.”

Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula

"Several of us met tonight (Saturday) — players, coaches, staff, and ownership. Our goal was to provide open dialogue and communication. We listended to one another. We believe it's the best way to work through any issue we are facing — on and off the field. President Trump's remarks were divisive and disrespectful to the entire NFL community, but we tried to use them as an opportunity to further unify our team and our organization.

"Our players have the freedom to express themselves in a respectful and thoughtful manner and we all agreed that our sole message is to provide and to promote an environment that is focused on love and equality."

Colts owner Jim Irsay

“I am troubled by the President’s recent comments about our league and our players. Sports in America have the unique ability to bring people from all walks of life and from different points of view together to work toward or root for a common goal, and the Indianapolis Colts are proud to be a part of that tradition in our home city and state.

"The vast majority of players in the NFL — especially those who have worn and continue to wear the Horseshoe — have donated millions of dollars to charities, raised money for those affected by recent hurricanes, created charitable foundations, visited schools, mentored students, worked in homeless shelters, cleaned up parks, and put in hours of their personal time toward improving their communities and the lives of those around them.

"That’s the spirit in which this nation was founded, and we all need to work tirelessly to bring people together to take on the challenges that face us and give back to the people of our communities. More so than any result on the field, that is a common goal worth rooting for.”

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