NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reacted today to President Trump's comments about the league Friday night in Alabama.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reacted today to President Trump's comments about the league Friday night in Alabama. (Ross D. Franklin / AP)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell took issue today with President Trump saying Friday night owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem.

"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 a statement released this morning. "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.

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"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."

NFL Players Association exuctive director DeMaurice Smith also responded to Trump.

"The peaceful demonstrations by some of our players have generated a wide array of responses. Those opinions are protected speech and a freedom that has been paid for by the sacrifice of men and women throughout history," Smith said in a statement released today. "This expression of speech has generated thoughtful discussions in our locker rooms and in board rooms. However, the line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just "shut up and play."

Trump encouraged fans to walk out of games in protest during a speech in Alabama on Friday night.

Several athletes, including a handful of NFL players, have refused to stand during "The Star-Spangled Banner" to protest the treatment of blacks by police.

Trump says those players are disrespecting the flag.

"That's a total disrespect of our heritage. That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for," he said, encouraging owners to act.

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired," Trump said to loud applause.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the kneeling trend last year when he played for the San Francisco 49ers, hasn't been signed by an NFL team for this season. The Ravens briefly looked into signing Kaepernick early in preseason because of quarterback Joe Flacco's back injury.

It's also not the first time Trump has raised the kneeling issue on NFL sidelines. Earlier this year, he took credit for the fact that Kaepernick hadn't been signed.

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