NFL and players’ union may have finally found some common ground. Donald Trump.
Both organizations released statements Saturday morning after Trump took aim at the league in an anti-NFL rant as part of a rambling speech during a campaign-style rally in Alabama Friday night.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a b---- off the field right now," Trump said. "Out, you’re fired!’”
"Total disrespect of our heritage, a total disrespect of everything that we stand for," the commander-in-chief added about the peaceful protest movement started last season by Colin Kaepernick.
We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports. pic.twitter.com/Ec3Bc4qt9h— DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) September 23, 2017
DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, echoed many of his outraged players when he released a statement early Saturday morning via Twitter.
"We will never back down," Smith titled his statement. "We no longer can afford to stick to sports."
Smith also took a swipe at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for not standing up more for players' "constitutional rights."
"Whether or not Roger and the owners will speak for themselves about their views on player rights and their commitment to player safety remains to be seen. This union, however, will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks."
Goodell answered back a few hours later with his own statement:
"The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture," the commmish wrote.
"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."
Trump coudn't let that statement go without a reply.
"Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!"
New NFL statement pic.twitter.com/XHPgVvPPfH— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) September 23, 2017
Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch called Trump's comments "inappropriate, offensive and divisive," in a statement released via a team spokesperson.
"We are proud of our players, the vast majority of whom use their NFL platform to make a positive difference in our society."
NFL players didn't waste time blasting away at the president.
"The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed," Seahawks star Richard Sherman tweeted. "If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!!"
Michael Bennett, who has continued Kaepernick's anthem protest, also had a sharp comment for Trump
"My mom is a beautiful lady," he tweeted, "she has never been a bitch."
Bills All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy didn't mince his words.
"It's really sad man," McCoy wrote, "our president is an a--hole."
Former NFL star Reggie Bush took to social media Friday night to urge his followers to "not allow this clown to divide us."
"Let's fight this ignorance show up together as one nation and persevere! #Kaepernick we riding with you bro."
Kaepernick began taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem last season while with the 49ers to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Bennett and others have continued Kaepernick's movement.
Eagles defensive end Chris Long, who has been a key ally to the NFL's anthem protestors, also took to Twitter to respond to Trump.
"Player- Let's promote equality, help our communities.
Mad Guy- All talk.
Player- Actually I do/have done X
Mad Guy- U just want attention!"
Trump clearly was paying attention to the way his comments were received by the NFL community and doubled down with a pair of tweets on Saturday afternoon in response.
"If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!"