NFL owners pan Trump’s attacks on players’ free speech

Even Trump's close friend Robert Kraft condemns the president's latest tantrum

Donald Trump hosted Robert Kraft in April
Donald Trump hosted Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots at the White House in April. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

As President Donald Trump began his Sunday by tweeting out attacks on the National Football League and its players for “disrespecting our Flag & Country [sic]” — his third consecutive day of such outbursts — criticism continued to come in not just from players but from team owners as well. And while Trump urged fans to boycott the league, even one of his closest friends denounced him for his tone.

Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, donated $1 million to help fund Trump’s inauguration and attended his wedding to Melania Trump. Trump has frequently name-dropped Kraft, tweeting previously that he is a “total winner,” “smart,” and his “friend.” But in a statement released Sunday morning, Kraft said he was “deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday,” while praising the “tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities,” by the league’s players. He added that he supports their “right to peaceably affect social change and raise awareness.”


Kraft is far from the only NFL owner/executive to denounce Trump’s smears and defend the players.

Others include:

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti

Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula

Chicago Bears chairman George H. McCaskey

Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam

Denver Broncos CEO Joe Ellis

Detroit Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford

Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy

Houston Texans owner Robert C. McNair

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Kahn

Los Angeles Chargers owner Dean Spanos

Los Angeles Rams owner E. Stanley Kroenke

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross

Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie

San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York

Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen

Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer

Tennessee Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk

Like Kraft, Kahn, Kroenke, and McNair each contributed $1 million to the Trump inaugural committee.

Not all owners were explicitly critical of Trump though.

Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill praised his players and football in general.

The Cincinnati Bengals released an odd statement that “football and politics don’t mix easily.”

Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt put out a statement saying he supports the flag and the right to differing opinions.

New York Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson, whose brother Woody is the team’s owner and Trump’s nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, released a statement praising his players generally.

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II issued a vague statement noting that he hopes the nation comes together eventually.

And the Washington NFL team issued a statement praising its players, coaches, fans, and those in the armed forces who fought for the “freedom to play football.”

Trump himself once owned the New Jersey Generals, a team in the now-defunct USFL football league, and has repeatedly retweeted suggestions that he would be a great NFL owner.  He also promised as a candidate that “nobody would fight harder for free speech than me.”

This post will be updated to include additional statements as they become available.