Andrew Innerarity-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Kraft called Donald Trump's kneeling rants 'divisive' and 'horrible,' per audio recording

Alex Reimer
April 25, 2018 - 12:53 pm

Robert Kraft publicly condemned President Donald Trump last year after the Commander-in-chief lambasted players who kneel during the national anthem as “sons of bitches.” In a statement, the Patriots owner said he was “deeply disappointed” with the tone of Trump’s comments.

In private, it turns out Kraft, who’s been a longtime friend of Trump’s, was even harsher. In the NFL meetings last October about the anthem controversy, Kraft said Trump twists the issue to fit his agenda at the expense of the country as a whole, per an audio recording obtained by the New York Times

“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” Kraft explained. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie lambasted Trump in the sharpest fashion, calling his presidency "disastrous." 

The NFL called an emergency summit in Manhattan last fall shortly after Trump’s anti-kneeling rant. The meeting, which was held between the owners and player representatives, was designed to come up with strategies to curtail the president’s persistent criticism. Texans owner Bob McNair was most direct with the players, requesting they stop kneeling immediately. 

“You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you,” he said. 

Other owners offered other ways for the players to advocate for social justice causes. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross proposed a march on Washington, and Bills owner Terry Pegula wanted the league to find a charismatic African-American spokesman. 

Ultimately, the league and players’ union released a joint statement, saying they had a “productive meeting.” Kraft suggested the statement convey unity among the players and owners. 

Earlier this year, the NFL announced it will commit $90 million to social justice initiatives. 

While the owners were intent on addressing the kneeling fallout, several players brought up Colin Kaepernick, who they believe is being blackballed from the league. Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long said all of the players in the delegation agree the quarterback “should be on a roster.”

Kaepernick remains unsigned this offseason, along with ex-49ers safety Eric Reid, who also knelt during the anthem and attended the meeting. 

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