A leaked recording of a meeting between NFL players and owners apparently confirms the obvious: the owners want to please President Donald Trump — knowingly at Colin Kaepernick’s expense. At least one owner suggested the league designate a Black spokesperson, while owners continue to take a “hands-off” approach.
The meeting, which the New York Times obtained audio of, took place in October and lasted about three hours.
The players wanted to talk about Kaepernick, while the owners spoke about saving face for the media and Trump.
Chris Long, defense end for the Philadelphia Eagles, said of Kaepernick,”If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive.” He added, “we all agree in this room as players that he should be on a roster.”
According to the Times, “The owners’ responses were noncommittal.”
But they were evidently committed to boosting ratings. Per the Times:
The owners kept returning to one bottom-line issue: Large numbers of fans and sponsors had become angry about the protests. Boycotts had been threatened and jerseys burned and — most worrisome — TV ratings were declining.
Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, told the players they “need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other [kneeling] business, let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you.”
McNair was the owner who previously said of the players’ protests during the National Anthem, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.”
Eric Reid called out the owners for blackballing his former teammate.
“I feel like he was hung out to dry,” said Reid, who had on a Kaepernick t-shirt over his business attire, the Times reported. “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.”
Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula said the league needed a “Band-Aid” solution. He suggested the league get a player to serve as a league spokesperson — further promoting the owners’ hands-off approach.
Anquan Boldin, a wide receiver who retired last year, said it’s important that “people know it’s not just the players that care about these issues, but the owners, too.”
Pegula did not acknowledge Boldin’s comment.
“For us to have a face, as an African American, at least a face that could be in the media,” he said, “we could fall in behind that.”
There is not a single Black NFL owner.
Still, Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins, and DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the players’ union, both said a joint statement to be released after the meeting should include the language “our issues.”
The players’ “issues” and those of the owners appear to be different, though, based on the conversation.
The issue Kaepernick started his protests for is police brutality and racism against Black men in the United States. He started his protest on Aug. 14, 2016, during a preseason game. Almost a year to the day later, Patrick Harmon, a 50-year-old Black man, was shot to death by a police officer in Salt Lake City while riding his bike. He did not have a red rear taillight. After initially complying with officers he attempted to run away. The last words Harmon heard were, “I’m going to f*cking shoot you” before an officer opened fire three times.
The issue for the owners, it seems, are making face for the media and a bigoted president, and making money.
Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and a supporter of Trump’s, said during the recorded meeting, “The problem we have is, we have a president who will use [the protests] as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America.” He called it “divisive and horrible.” Kraft donated at least $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, according to USA Today.
He told the New York Daily News that Trump was of great emotional support to him when his wife passed away — not once calling him “divisive” or “horrible.”
Texans owner McNair donated $1 million to the same committee. He also donated about $2 million to Trump’s campaign.
At least 28 of the league’s 32 owners donated to Trump in some capacity, USA Today also reported.