When team owners met with players at NFL headquarters last October, it was an unprecedented moment in history, nearly a month after Donald Trump began deriding the league and its players over protests during the national anthem.
The protests and the subsequent backlash was putting much strain on the NFL brain trust to come up with a solution. The New York Times recently obtained a transcript of the three-hour meeting, corroborating conversations that were once only speculated upon.
EXCLUSIVE: Kaepernick. Trump. NFL. We obtained a recording of a confidential meeting between players and owners. Here’s what they said. https://t.co/P5R69nIWJZ
According to the transcript, players discussed their concern over Colin Kaepernick not having a job following a proposal to finance nonprofit groups to address issues important to the players. They believe he was being blackballed, as do I and many others.
Those aware of the meeting say the owners sounded panicked at that assertion.
If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive, Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long said at the meeting.
Long said he did not wish to lecture any team on what quarterbacks to sign, but we all agree in this room as players that he should be on a roster.
The owners responses were noncommittal. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said that fighting for social justice is not about one person.
For clarity, Jeffrey Lurie has been on the record as being anti-Kaepernick.
This kneeling, said New England owner Robert Kraft. The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I dont feel is in the best interests of America. Its divisive and its horrible.
Taking place following criticism and pressure from the White House, the owners were adamant about spin control. Lurie, who called Trumps presidency disastrous, cautioned against players getting drawn into the presidents tactics.
Weve got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whomever else, Lurie said. We have to find a way to not be divided and not get baited.
All Donald needs to do is to start to do this again, Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula said. We need some kind of immediate plan because of whats going on in society. All of us now, we need to put a Band-Aid on whats going on in the country.
All the damage Trumps going to do is done, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said.
According to the New York Times, the owners seemed obsessed with the number of fans and sponsors that were angered by the protests, threats of boycotts and declining TV ratings, which had actually been declining prior to the protests.
You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, lets go out and do something that really produces positive results, and well help you,” said Houston Texans owner Bob McNair.
I feel like he was hung out to dry, Eric Reid said of Kaepernick. Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us. The room fell quiet. Nobody stepped up and said we support Colins right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesnt have a job.
As more reports come out about the ongoing blackballing of Colin Kaepernick, stop what you’re doing and watch this clip of Max Kellerman from September eloquently speaking on Kaepernick and racial injustice as a whole. https://t.co/QbhhlYH2dx
Pegula mentioned that he felt the league needed a spokesperson, but Anquan Boldin beseeched ownership to be spokesmen as well.
Letting people know its not just the players that care about these issues, but the owners, too, Boldin said.
Pegula didnt address Boldins point except to add that it would be important for the spokesman to be black.
For us to have a face, as an African-American, at least a face that could be in the media, Pegula continued, we could fall in behind that.
Colin Kaepernick‘s name didn’t come up again in the meeting.
It concluded with some believing it was a positive endeavor and a joint statement was to be prepared.
It would be good if you could work in the word unified or unity in some fashion, Robert Kraft said, referring to the joint statement.
We could say simply, today we had a reset, and the players issues are our issues, and we recognize them and will work together, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said.
About an hour later, the league released its joint statement:
Today owners and players had a productive meeting focused on how we can work together to promote positive social change and address inequality in our communities. NFL executives and owners joined NFLPA executives and player leaders to review and discuss plans to utilize our platform to promote equality and effectuate positive change. We agreed that these are common issues and pledged to meet again to continue this work together.