BOSTON (CBS) — The controversy of NFL players protesting during the national anthem before games does not appear to be going away any time soon. The NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement on Wednesday in which they said they’ll be discussing a cohesive plan next week to try to determine the best course of action for both sides going forward.

Through all of the swirling national coverage and debates of the protests, one of the most surprising voices to come out against President Donald Trump’s stance has been Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The two have a long relationship as friends, and Kraft was seen traveling on Air Force One back in March. He also visited Trump Tower in November, after Trump won the election, and he dined with Trump and the Japanese prime minister at Mar-A-Logo in February.

Yet after Trump called for owners to say “get that son of a bitch off the field right now” if a player protested, Kraft released a statement saying he was “disappointed by the tone” of the comments made by the President of the United States.

In an interview with the BBC, Kraft said that Trump’s comments were “inflammatory,” thus prompting him to release his public statement on Sept. 24.

Robert Kraft disembarks from Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on March 19, 2017.(Photo by Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images)

“I think there were some comments made about what our young men were doing that were a little inflammatory and inappropriate, and I thought I had to speak out,” Kraft told the BBC. “And I spoke to the team and I told them that they were free to do what they thought was correct.”

President Donald Trump talks to Robert Kraft at the White House in April 2017.
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Kraft said that he personally believes in standing during the national anthem, but he respects his players enough to try to understand their side.

“The greatest enemy in sport is division from within. And I personally feel it’s very important to respect our flag and our anthem. But I also respect the right of people in this country to make statements or protests peacefully, in a way that’s appropriate to them,” Kraft said.

And, unlike Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Kraft did not threaten any of his players if they choose the national anthem as the time for their demonstrations.

“I try to bring unity and bring things together, and part of that is respecting how other people think, even if it’s genuine, even if it’s different than the way I speak,” Kraft said. “And the way you build team and you build success is to let people be themselves.”

Comments (89)
  1. Allen Blaine says:

    Mr. Kraft, The nfl has rules and the players have to go by those rules. When the Dallas Cowboys wanted to wear arm bands and decals on their helmets to honor the 5 slain police officers, they were told no. This is no different. It is not a free speech issue. So if the nfl makes a rule that they have to stand for the anthem then that is what they have to do. When they get done playing then they can do their free speech protests. I understand that their is already a rule that all players are to be on the field when the anthem starts with their right hand over their heart. The players are breaking the rules and disrespecting soldiers and those who died protecting our rights. Get a grip. Trump was correct in what he said.

    1. Allen Blaine: The NFL does not have a rule that players “must” stand on the field with their right hand over their heart. It is up to the owner of the team to decide how to interpret the guideline. Kraft and Jerry Jones (Dallas) have different interpretations but they both follow the NFL guidelines.

      1. The NFL rule book says nothing about the Anthem The NFL game operations manual does cover it.

        “The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.
        During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”

      2. Ever do ANY research, or do you just believe everything people tell you?

        There most certainly IS a rule for NFL players to STAND for the anthem:

      3. Todd Nelson says:

        And Kraft has the nerve to call his team the “Patriots”, while, at the same time, allowing his players disrespect the country, the flag, and the National Anthem. I would hardly call them “patriots”. Bob Kraft should be sued for putting out a product that is not what it is advertised as. His players are not patriots because REAL patriots would not disrespect their country. Trump has just been pointing out what the owners should have been doing from day 1. The NFL rule says the players should stand and face the flag during the playing of the National Anthem. While the rule uses the word”should” other than “must”, it also proscribes what penalties will arise from the failure to do so, including fines and teams loss of draft picks. I guess that covers the “should” versus “must”

  2. Allen Blaine in the first place ask youself if Trump is so patriotic why did he need 5 yes 5 deferment during the Viet Nam war. This fight has nothing to do with being patriotic , it has to do with revenge with the N.F. L. try reading up on it. Maybe then you’ll understand why he started this.

    1. And here I thought the left was against the Vietnam War. Why then would you care so much that one man found way to not fight in it? Oh that’s right, the left only care about something when it advances their agenda.

    2. Sal Busacca says:

      This must be hard for you but let me try to explain. NFL is a sports league. It’s fans are mostly Patriotic Americans – both Dem and Rep. The entire country is on players side regarding equality and fair treatment and no one wants bad cops. So what exactly are these morons protesting? What are WE supposed to do? Now, here is what these fools have actually accomplished. They have managed to get half the country AT LEAST to loathe them for disrespecting the flag and anthem and have focused hard working people who make a fraction of what they do to ask why they need to be lectured by athletes who make millions to run, catch, bounce. Hollywood is doing the same thing. This is not about Trump. Yes he said what 75 percent of the country was thinking, but these jerks by making this them vs Trump have sealed their own demise. People like you who hate Trump, probably hate football anyway, so who have the players alienated? Their loyal fans! Nice work NFL Who cares.

    3. Lee Wagner says:

      People make this a trump thing. But, it all started last year with the pig socks. My viewing starting the decline then.

    4. blenderrecipes says:

      Breaking news…Trump is still your President :)

    5. So Josephine, when and where did you serve? As a veteran, I get weary of those who never served throwing out the “draft dodger” label on anyone. And for the record, I called the same people out in ’92 that were raising hell about Slick Willie’s running off to England during the war. I have no real use for draft dodgers, but I have less use for non-veteran chicken hawks who coattail on the service and sacrifice of those of us who served to point fingers at those who didn’t.

    6. Bill Clinton also dodged the draft, any comment on him?

    7. Jim Corridan says:

      Do you have same opinion of 5 deferment joe biden ?

  3. Oh Allen Blaine in case you missed it, not one Patriot player took a knee during their last game.

  4. Don McCoy says:

    LOL! These morons in the NFL are doing everything in their power to inflame Americans before each game…and they have the gall to blame Trump for being inflammatory! Best part? The NFL ALREADY has rules against what these players are doing! You can’t make this stuff up! How do they think they’ll keep paying their players as they lose fans and viewership as a result of their shift from a football league to an organization for Social Justice!?

  5. Meanwhile, Robert Kraft sells tap water at Gillette Stadium for $4.50 per cup WITH NO REFILLS. Kraft is a jerk. Boycott these NFL idiots.

  6. Yes and there is no rule I have to watch spoiled millionaires play a game I was a lifelong NFL fan, I bought products with the NFL logo. Have not watch a game this year and have sent letters to companies that sponsor the NFL

  7. Jerry Miller says:

    The kneeling controversy is a skirmish in the undeclared race war in America. It’s a war that Euro-Americans are starting to win because blacks decided to make their cause anti-Americanism instead of just pro-black.

  8. Mr. Kraft, you fail to realize that all of us NFL fans had already made up our minds about the sad state of political correctness invading what we used to consider America’s sport. When you started with the concussion mess, you started the ball rolling. Then you compounded the issue by letting a washed up quarterback lead you down a path that none of us supported. Your commissioner basically said to the fans, we don’t care what you think you are going to shut up and like it. Now, you as business owners are reaping the fruits of having ignored your customer. You have forgotten the adage that dollars spent supporting a business essentially are a measure of the service you have given the customer – value added. Right now, you have devalued the service that you were supposed to provide and we are voting on it. Whether or not President Trump was involved in this or not, is of no consequence as he has had the amazing ability to speak what the average American is thinking. You see, we are coming off 8+ years of people in power ignoring and in many cases overtly going against what we think and believe. Unfortunately, a sport that I used to feel unquestionably aligned with has now become suspect. I will continue to vote against you NFL owners with my viewing time and dollars.

  9. Cristu Doulo says:

    regardless, football is an American past time, albeit near kin to idolatry nowadays. If Americans are going to participate, it is only right that the American symbol be honored – the flag. It is NOT right that millionaire crybabies following Colin Kaperneck’s “example” – who incidentally likes to wear Che Guevara and Malcolm X shirts – of disrespecting the flag that our fathers fought to defend.

    In essence they are spitting on the graves of the military.

    I’ll never spend another dollar watching a NFL game or with its sponsors.

  10. When I go to a hardware store, I don’t want to know the employees opinions on anything except what I came there for. When I go to a restaurant, I don’t want to hear the wait staff’s opinions on anything other than the food. When I go to get my car serviced, I don’t want to hear what the mechanic thinks about anything except my car’s mechanical condition.

    The NFL is a business. The entertainment business. If the owners can’t keep their employees from interjecting their own opinions while on the job (regardless of the validity of those opinions), then don’t be surprised when the paying customers (the fans) find something else on which to spend their money and time.

  11. Change the name of the team. They are not Patriots.

  12. ernie4 says:

    NFL must die
    end of story

  13. Wrong. The greatest enemy of sports is forgetting its entertainment and treating it like a political or social forum.

  14. Bill Welling says:

    The players, team executives and Goodell are inflammatory not President Trump. He is reflecting the feelings of the vast majority of the nation. You guys are going down in flames and pouring gas on yourselves.

  15. The NFL allowed itself to be swept up in the PC mindset and forgot who their fans (customers) were. Wearing pink was a distraction, but one we could live with. Everyone is against cancer, but we don’t need to wear our hatred for cancer on our sleeves. It was the classic PC mindset: it did nothing for awareness of Breast Cancer — we already knew about it and those who wanted to donate to find a cure are doing so — but it made us feel good about ourselves. Same with Kapernick. Did nothing to alleviate problems in the inner cities but made himself feel good. How he did it was wrong, insulting to the flag and to the nation, but the NFL did nothing because it wanted to be PC. Didn’t care about that when players wanted to support police killed protecting free speech of the people who called for killing police, but the NFL turned a blind eye so that it could tell itself how progressive it was. Then the fans spoke. The President said what all the fans were thinking and owners, like Kraft, who were embarrassed that they were so out of touch with their fans, are now feigning hurt. OK, Kraft, go ahead, defend disrespect for the flag. I don’t need to watch your kid game or buy your overpriced tickets or $10 beers. Enjoy playing in half-filled stadium and making payroll next week.

  16. Then you must also respect the right for others not to think as you do and they do, and to have their own opinions. Also, the right NOT buy tickets, buy merchandise, by things that are sponsored by the NFL or ti’s teams, not to buy their sponsors products. Suffer the consequences.

  17. Jeff Locke says:

    Sorry Mr. Kraft. I’m a long time Patriots fan and have I also have great respect for what the Kraft family has accomplished with the team, Sadly, Mr. Kraft is putting his concern for his product before concern for patriotism. I’m less of a fan now, Too bad.

  18. Larry Sarvis says:

    Trump’s comments were inflammatory? You gotta be kidding. Kneeling during the National Anthem is inflammatory. It was meant to be. So why are the pros now whining about the reaction they have gotten? You tell us you hate our country what kind of reaction did you expect? These coaches and owners are as bad as their players. Stop defending this indefensible action of denigrating our flag. If you can’t be patriotic then there are $10 an hour jobs as greeters at Walmart. What other job would these guys possibly be qualified for?

  19. Jeffrey Gee says:

    If you don’t like this country so much you can always leave. Maybe you can go to North Korea, China, the middle east, or other 3rd world hell hole and try protesting there and see what that gets you! I’m not in solidarity with millionaire roid/pin heads that feel they are so oppressed!

  20. What is Kraft AFRAID of? Colin Flaherty is right — ALL of this “protest” nonsense and a complete hoax perpetrating a LIE and misinformation. The ONLY institutionalized racism in “The System” is AFFIRMATIVE ACTION ITSELF.

  21. Kraft doesn’t care about any “tailback” standing or kneeling. He cares only about the “greenback” and he sold his soul for wealth. Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” God help him.

  22. chrismireya says:

    Trump was right.

  23. Lee Wagner says:

    I have lost interest in watching the NFL….i might watch 1/2 of a game(if that much)..

  24. Brad Kaplan says:

    Et tu Mr. Kraft…et tu? Wow.

  25. bandit08 says:

    Trumps comments were inflammatory but Bob’s totes OK with the players disrespecting the flag and the country – now I got it!

  26. Brett Duhon says:

    Stand, sit, roll over, fetch…I don’t care. I’m done with these overpaid ungrateful thugs. The NFL is banned from my home.

  27. Jim Morrison says:

    Be the father figure that those ignoramuses need Bob and educate them how Hands Up Don;t Shoot out of Ferguson that started all of this in the NFL was a proven LIE and FAKE NEWS

  28. Berta Lane says:

    Prejudices do not come out of thin air. They come from experience and the survival skill of friend/foe assessment. NFL players should be protesting the behavior that creates the stereotype that they resent —

  29. Enforce the NFL RULES, Kraft.
    All owners who refuse to enforce NFL National Anthem decorum are wimps.

  30. Geof Grooms says:

    Mr. Kraft, since you and the NFL chose to jam politics down our throats way before Trump came along, you can keep your scam. Putting Joe Lockhart in as your political voice makes the side clear.

    You have no regard for the fans or America. Just spit in our face and act surprised when your elitist views against the Police, Flag, Country, Rule of Law don’t fly.

  31. Dave Allen says:

    If they pulled out their tallywacker and shook it around in self expression would that be cool to?

  32. Joe Schuster says:

    F Kraft, F the Patriots, FNFL Why do they continue to double down on STUPID??? Long time Pats fan back to before Grogan & Plunkett. Was not easy at first but with each passing day and the doubling down on STUPID it gets easier. Country first!

  33. I will always support my home country ahead of the home team.

  34. The NFL has turned into a political tax eating garbage show. For over 55 yrs I have watched the NFL slowly turn into a Hollywood sideshow. “Don’t hit to hard” but demonstrate your political views. Do not honor police… and so forth. I really don’t miss the NFL anymore and have more time for family and friends and life. Bye NFL, not coming back!

  35. Jim Morrison says:

    Why wouldn’t the right to protest include wearing Goodell Clown likenesses on the Pats uniforms after the deflate gate debacle then Bob?

  36. Jose Yates says:

    Kraft use don’t to brag how supportive Trump wasn’t in a time of need. When Kraft was crushed Trump was there to help

  37. Maybe the NFL doesn’t know it yet, but this is the end of the NFL.

  38. John Fogarty says:

    What’s inflammatory and inappropriate are players disrespecting our anthem and flag and the owners who condone it. The National Felony League should be shut down.

  39. Let’s face it, Kraft would rather insult the flag, country, anthem and fans than the players who are giving America the finger!

  40. Mike Herman says:

    If the U.S. President can’t speak up for America, the National Anthem, Flag, and U.S. Veterans, who should? He speaks for millions of Americans who also want a voice that the media wouldn’t otherwise cover. Thank you, Mr. President.

  41. Susan Larson says:

    Why not require these protesters to walk the streets one night a week without a gun and show the police how they are supposed to do their job

  42. Mike Herman says:

    Kraft needs to change the name of his team.

  43. NFL is digging its own grave. Half of my friends have stopped watching the NFL. They used to watch football as an escape from this crazy world. Now the NFL has joined the crazy world. No escape there.

  44. Fuzz Dunlop says:

    oy vey, (((bob kraft))) is upset and wants to side with his golems. imagine that.

  45. Doug Day says:

    TV has BET. Perhaps it’s time for a BNFL.

  46. Rick Carlton says:

    Hey Bob; I ‘was’ a long-time Pats fan. Now, in the immortal words of Katie Pavlich, ‘bite me Michelle,’ and that goes for your weepy, SJW playerettes too. See if you can pay your mortgage with no fans in the stands, and no advertisers on the tube.

  47. Dusty Rhodes says:

    Some may not like what POTUS said about the NFL and the National Anthem, but the rest of us who agree are not supporting the NFL until you folks get your America first act together.

  48. I’m a career military man, and lifelong Patriots Fan. My loyalties are to God, Family, and Nation. Where does the NFL and New England Patriots align with those loyalties? At the bottom.

  49. What reason would you have to criticize the president for taking the patriotic position when the flag and anthem is under attack? How could this position be “inflamatory”?

  50. I’m still trying to figure out how it’s TRUMP who is “being divisive” when the PLAYERS began all of this divisiveness by the actions in disrespecting the anthem and the flag. Sorry, Mr. Kraft, you’re wrong on this one, and so are the players who have chosen our most sacred symbols of patriotism to s**t on.

  51. Kraft is full of it.. Another hypocritical, disingenuous NFL owner scared to death of its players. If players were kneeling because wanted to fight for ‘white rights’ or did the Nazi salute instead of the black power fist in the air, you know this Worm would not tolerate it for a second!! Nor should he.. White pride displays are disgusting.. Black pride is equally putrid.. And neither has any place in sports

  52. As a 37 year fan of the Patriots (I’m 50), I am officially DONE supporting them. Thank you, Mr. Kraft, for making my decision for me. I will always respect Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, but I will not be watching the Pats.

  53. Kelly Laraia says:

    Kraft to Trump….don’t tell me how to run my business.

  54. Actually, the racial incitement based on lies is inflammatory and inappropriate Bob…

  55. Stella Folse says:

    I support the players right to express themselves also. However, I do not support them when they diss the country, the flag and veterans who served it those who died for it. Something 99% of NFL player would not do.. There are appropriate places and venues to protest. This is not one of them. I have joined those who have given up the NFL.

  56. John Smith says:

    A62-623 Of the NFL League rulebook states:
    The National Anthem must be played prior to the start of every game and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem. During the National Anthem, players must stand at attention and face the flag. Failure to be on the field for the start of the National Anthem can result in fines, suspensions, and forfeiture of draft choices.
    The willful ignorance of all the owners sports commentators defending these protests is laughable. Trump is absolutely right, every one of these SOBs should be fired on the spot.

  57. “Trump’s Comments Were ‘Inflammatory,” No Trump is just bringing to light what has been happening in secret. He is stirring a pot you guys would just as soon ignore. The owners don’t want to deal with it because it is a lose-lose proposition for them.

  58. “Anti-racists” say there’s a RACE problem. They say it’ll be solved when non-Whites pour into ALL & ONLY White nations and “assimilate” to get a brown mixture.

    They say only White nations have this RACE problem; they say non-White nations are fine.

    If I object to my own genocide these “anti-racists” say I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they’re anti-racist. What they are is anti-White.

    Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-White.

  59. The National Felons League is now DEAD to me. This disrespect of Veterans and the National Anthem is NEVER tolerable.

    F-ing traitorous vermin pack of wife beaters and drug users. Execute them on the 50 yard line and play the game over their bloody corpses.

  60. Okay thanks for clearing up your position Mr. Kraft and simultaneously clearing my schedule of ever watching “The Patriots” in the future, ever.

  61. Clyde Boyd says:

    Kraft, the NFL and Good for Nothing Goodell is done.

  62. YES!!! thank you robert kraft, youve just HELPED us boycotters take away more of your money lolol

    falling ratings, lost revenue and lost adverts and these guys STILL wont shut their mouths lol

    by all means, keep digging the grave kraft…..we celebrate it

  63. Memo to Mr. Kraft: your audience is walking away in droves and they’re NOT coming back.

  64. I would suggest Kraft, and the other owners, have good bankruptcy lawyers on retainer. I won’t be back to watch any of their games but will get a chuckle when they go under.

  65. mrfubo says:

    Killing the golden goose.

  66. I used to love smoking but when I quit, I realized it was a time consuming addiction and I was gratefully liberated. I feel the same way about NFL.

  67. How about finding a Vet whose a quadriplegic or has no limbs, a war hero, has Purple Heart medals (preferrably Medal of Honor), has an awsome singing voice that will volunteer to sing the National Anthem at a NFL game and place him in front of these kneeling snowflakes in front of cameras broadcast on the world wide web and world television.

  68. They do not need to stand but I don’t watch traitors.

  69. Wonderful. If the PROTESTOR PLAYERS have any guts at all they’ll CONTINUE to protest. If Your collective conscience is much more important than “the reason you’re playing”. Never forget that! Never compromise! (And good riddance to the NFL!)

  70. I will peacefully protest by not watching the NFL as the NFL, owners and athletes, continue to behave like totally clueless buffoons that have not a clue about their fan base. More power to the NFL as they dig themselves deeper into a hole.