National Football League team owners admit that President Donald Trump’s position on players kneeling during the national anthem made an impact on how they decided to respond, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Several NFL team owners, including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross both acknowledged that Trump’s coming out against the protests affected their own positions in sworn testimony related to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s grievance filed against the NFL.
Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the national anthem before games to protest the killings of black men by law enforcement officers, claims that the NFL and its teams blackballed him because of the protests.
According to the Journal, which reviewed the depositions, Jones and other NFL owners indicated that Trump’s criticism of the players and the protests pushed the league to change its position, which they did by changing the rules to fine teams if players continue to kneel during the national anthem.
"I was totally supportive of [the players] until Trump made his statement,” Ross said in a deposition, adding that owners’ conversations with Trump had been relayed in a league meeting, saying that he thought Trump “changed the dialogue."
According to Jones’ deposition, Trump told him on a phone call, "this is a very winning, strong issue for me. Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me."
Kaepernick’s attorney, Mark Geragos, hailed the owners’ testimony in an appearance on CBS News legal correspondent Amy Dash’s "Straight Aim" podcast.
"In this civil case, there’s no doubt that the existing coaches — and I’m talking about Super Bowl-winning coaches — have testified under oath that he’s a starting quarterback in this league, and so that’s mind boggling," Geragos said. “When you ask them … specifically why he isn’t he being hired … they say because of the national anthem policy."
He added that, "The only reason — and the owners will admit that — they haven’t signed [Kaepernick] is they’re afraid of Trump, and they’ve colluded because of Trump."
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