The CEO of the Green Pay Packers — the NFL’s only publicly owned team — just issued a statement in defiance of President Trump.

Packers CEO Mark Murphy published the statement on Friday night, a day after Trump’s speech at a rally campaigning for Senator Luther Strange (R-Alabama). While addressing the crowd, he used the phrase “son of a bitch” to describe the mostly black NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, adding that team owners should fire players who chose to kneel. Trump also said that fans attending games where players kneeled should leave in protest of the players’ actions.

“It’s unfortunate that the President decided to use his immense platform to make divisive and offensive statements about our players and the NFL. We strongly believe that players are leaders in our communities and positive influences,” Murphy said. “They have achieved their positions through tremendous work and dedication and should be celebrated for their success and positive impact.”

“We believe it is important to support any of our players who choose to peacefully express themselves with the hope of change for good. As Americans, we are fortunate to be able to speak openly and freely,” he added.

The practice of kneeling during the national anthem began in 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat for the national anthem during a preseason game as a means of drawing attention to the problem of police officers killing black people and not being held accountable.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told the NFL Network following the first protest. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell accused President Trump of having an “unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL” following his comments. Trump fired back on his Twitter account, saying Goodell was enabling bad behavior, and asked the NFL commissioner to order players to stand for the anthem.

Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett protested during the anthem last week, standing, but with his fist in the air. The Packers will host the Cincinnati Bengals in Green Bay on Sunday afternoon.


Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in Inkster, Michigan.

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