New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft took issue with his longtime friend, President Donald Trump, during a confidential emergency NFL meeting last fall to discuss player protests during the national anthem, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The New York Times has obtained an audio recording from the October meeting between owners and league executives at Park Avenue.
"The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don't feel is in the best interests of America," Kraft said. "It's divisive and it's horrible."
Kraft expressed displeasure of Trump's comment when the latter said the following of any player who fails to stand during that anthem: "Get that son of a bitch off the field."
"I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President," Kraft said in September. "I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger. There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics.
"I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful."
"We've got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whomever else," Lurie said, per the newspaper. "We have to find a way to not be divided and not get baited."
Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan also commented, with the former saying the league was "under assault" while the latter declared that, "All the damage Trump's going to do is done."
The owners repeatedly circled back to fans and sponsors becoming angry about the protests, leading to the threat of boycotts and a decline in television ratings.
"You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let's go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we'll help you," McNair said.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's name was discussed multiple times, with Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long reportedly saying: "If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive."
Safety Eric Reed, who wore a Kaepernick T-shirt over his dress shirt and tie, defended his former teammate.
"I feel like he was hung out to dry," Reid said, per the newspaper. "Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us. Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin's right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn't have a job."