Stories

Secret recording reveals NFL owners terrified of Trump

NFL players kneeling
Players from the Kansas City Chiefs taking a knee. Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

NFL players, owners, and executives held a confidential meeting at league headquarters last October to address President Trump's attacks against the league in the wake of player protests — instigated by quarterback Colin Kaepernick — against police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem, per The New York Times.

Why it matters: A recording of the meeting, obtained by the Times, shows that owners were deeply worried about the impact that the protests might have on the economic future of the league, pressuring players to put an end to the situation as quickly as possible.

A big quote: New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, who is a supporter and friend of Trump, addressed the impact of the protests:

“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. It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”

Getting direct: Houston Texas owner Bob McNair addressed the players in the room directly, asking them to spread the word to end the protests in order to ward off Trump's attacks against the league:

"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.”

Between the lines: The players in the room attempted to address Kaepernick's status with the league on multiple occasions, but were rebuffed by the owners and executives. Kaepernick has gone unsigned since the protests gained steam, and Eric Reid, Kaepernick's supporter and former teammate, had harsh words for the higher-ups:

“I feel like he was hung out to dry. 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.”

How it ended: Per the Times, "The meeting concluded with some participants saying how positive the session had been, and how they would all keep talking." Kaepernick remains unsigned while the league clamped down on the protests — with commissioner Roger Goodell publicly announcing his desire for the number of protestors to drop to "zero" around the time of the meeting. The group did release a joint statement after its summit:

“Today owners and players had a productive meeting focused on how we can work together to promote positive social change and address inequality in our communities. NFL executives and owners joined NFLPA executives and player leaders to review and discuss plans to utilize our platform to promote equality and effectuate positive change. We agreed that these are common issues and pledged to meet again to continue this work together.”