On Friday, President Donald Trump fired up the crowd at a rally in Alabama when he offered a piece of advice to NFL team owners about how to handle on-field protests.
“Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b***h off the field ... he's fired!'?” Trump asked.
While the crowd responded with applause and chants of “USA,” players in the league didn't take as kindly to the suggestion.
Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron wondered if the argument being used against athletes voicing political opinions was also being applied to the president:
Does anyone tell trump to stick to politics, like they tell us to stick to sports? Smh.
— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) September 23, 2017
Washington Redskins linebacker Zach Brown told Trump to “stay in [his] place”:
Trump stay in ur place... football have nothing to do wit u smh
— Zach Brown (@ZachBrown_55) September 23, 2017
Minnesota Vikings running back Bishop Sankey didn't argue Trump's opinion on players kneeling, but he called the president out for his word choice:
It's a shame and disgrace when you have the President of the US calling citizens of the country sons of a bitches.
— Bishop Sankey (@BishopSankey) September 23, 2017
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews, whose brother was a Marine and was killed in Afghanistan, has honored the United States military repeatedly, but he also took umbrage with Trump's statement:
I'm a full supporter of the Flag & This country! Trust Me! But this can't be real! https://t.co/GAPkZPB8hz
— Rishard Matthews (@_RMatthews) September 23, 2017
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement that was tweeted by NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy. “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 pointed to the “amazing response” from players and NFL organizations after the series of natural disasters the United States has experienced recently as an example of the “overwhelming force for good” the NFL contributes to society.