The NFL had a response for Donald Trump on Saturday morning after the 45th U.S. president called any player who kneels during the national anthem a “son of a bitch” in a rant on Friday.
The league used strong language to condemn Trump’s “divisive” comments, but despite appearances, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t entirely take a strong stand.
Here’s Goodell’s statement:
The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. 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.
Although Goodell generally defended his league and its players, his statement doesn’t mention the situation that set Trump off in the first place. The president’s comments were directed at NFL players who, following the lead of Colin Kaepernick, have knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and violence against black people in America.
As Trump said on Friday: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!”
Y’all remember Charlottesville White Supremacists “very fine people”. Black NFL players Sons of bitches that need to be fired.
— Bakari Sellers (@Bakari_Sellers) September 23, 2017
The NFL hasn’t exactly embraced the activism of its players, and still says that all players are “encouraged” to stand for the national anthem. This is more than a year after Kaepernick first made waves by pointedly sitting it out, and at the start of a season when the quarterback is still out of work.
The league didn’t take this chance to back its players either. “Divisive” is about as strong a condemnation as we’re gonna get.