BOSTON (CBS) – New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was critical of President Donald Trump during an October meeting between players and owners about national anthem protests in the league, an audio recording of the meeting obtained by the New York Times shows.
Commissioner Roger Goodell urged attendees during the meeting “let’s make sure that we keep this confidential.” But on Wednesday, details from the three-hour meeting leaked.
Kraft brought up “this kneeling,” which he referred to as an “elephant in the room.” The meeting came about a month after Trump harshly criticized players who kneel during the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” Trump said at a September rally. Several teams, including the Patriots, had players kneel the following week.
Following Trump’s comments, Kraft issued a statement saying he was “deeply disappointed by the tone” of the remarks and was again critical in a BBC interview. During the October meeting, Kraft reportedly went further.
“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use [kneeling] as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” said Kraft, who has voiced support of Trump on several occasions. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”
The Times reports that Houston Texans owner, who received backlash when he referred to players as “inmates running the prison,” said in the October meeting that players should spread the word throughout the league to stop kneeling.
“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,” he said in the meeting.
Several players in the meeting expressed the belief that Colin Kapernick, who started the protest, is now being blackballed by the league. Former Patriots defensive lineman Chris Long was among them.
“If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive,” Long told the room.