Several National Football League team owners donated generously to President Trump’s inaugural committee months before the president decided to wage battle against the league.
Trump has been sharply criticizing NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in protest since a Friday rally in Alabama and has called for people to stop watching games until the protests stop.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, and said he’s “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Trump said during the Friday rally, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!'”
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast,” Trump went on to tweet Sunday.
All of this criticism led to a wave of players kneeling during Sunday’s games and condemnations of Trump by owners who donated to him.
New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft is close with Trump and donated $1 million to his inaugural committee.
He said in a statement Sunday, “I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday.”
Texans owner Bob McNair gave $2 million to a pro-Trump PAC and an additional $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee.
“The comments made by the President were divisive and counterproductive to what our country needs right now,” McNair said in a statement Sunday.
Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke also gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. His statement Sunday didn’t single out Trump by name, but supported his players’ right to protest.
“We believe in the tenets of the national anthem, which is a pillar of this country; just as freedom of speech is another pillar and a constitutional right,” Kroenke said. “We will continue to support our players’ freedom to peacefully express themselves and the meaningful efforts they make to bring about positive change in our country.”
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and locking arms with players Sunday during the national anthem. Several Jaguars kneeled during the anthem.
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) September 24, 2017
Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder likewise donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and locked arms with players during “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Dan Snyder standing with Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland during the national anthem pic.twitter.com/Je8fDRYXpV
— Jake Russell (@_JakeRussell) September 25, 2017
Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon that the locking of arms was an appropriate expression. “Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable,” Trump tweeted.
The locking of arms was viewed as an act of solidarity between owners and protesting players.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee through a business called Gladstone Limited Partnership. He has yet to comment on Trump’s remarks, but recently said, “I do not think the place to express yourself in society is as we recognize the American flag.”
Other owners who donated to Trump’s inaugural committee are New York Jets owner Woody Johnson ($1 million) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Ed Glazer ($250,000).
Trump’s comments about the NFL Friday did not only focus on the national anthem protests.
“NFL ratings are down massively. Now the number one reason happens to be they like watching what’s happening… with yours truly. They like what’s happening,” Trump said. “Because you know today if you hit too hard—15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They had that last week. I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really beautiful tackle. Boom, 15 yards! The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game.”
WATCH THIS: ALL BUT ONE OF THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS REMAIN IN LOCKER ROOM DURING NATIONAL ANTHEM