President Donald Trump came under harsh criticism Saturday from the NFL and some of the NBA’s top players after he blasted prominent athletes for kneeling during the national anthem, putting himself in the center of a controversy with significant racial and cultural undertones.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell slammed Trump in a statement Saturday morning, calling the President “divisive” for remarks he made at a rally in Alabama Friday night, while one of the most famous athletes in the world, LeBron James, called Trump a “bum” for a Saturday morning tweet aimed at the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry.
Trump’s tweets and harsh reaction highlight an extraordinary moment — the President, NFL commissioner and a top basketball player embroiled in a public fight over unity and patriotism.
Goodell said Trump’s criticism of NFL players kneeling in protest during the National Anthem show a “lack of respect” for the league and its players.
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” Goodell said in the statement. “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.”
At a rally for Alabama Republican Sen. Luther Strange, Trump said team owners should fire players for taking a knee during the national anthem. He added that if fans would “leave the stadium” when players kneel in protest during the national anthem, “I guarantee, things will stop.”