JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – President Donald Trump put the NFL on blast three weeks ago when he publicly challenged team owners to fire players who don't stand for the national anthem. The league's response came two days later with players around the league kneeling for the pre-game ceremony.
But while NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has resisted pressure from the White House to make standing for the occasion mandatory and urged teams to move past the controversy, owners by and large have not taken a public stand against President Trump -- until now.
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who locked arms with players on the sidelines before the Sept. 24 game in London against Baltimore in a show of solidarity, reportedly did not hold back Thursday during an executive conference in Chicago.
Khan, 67, contributed $1 million to Trump's inauguration. But that didn't stop him from opening up about Trump's remarks, his players' feelings toward them and how they chose to respond as a team, Crain's Chicago Business reports.
"I had heard from a lot of the players what their feelings were, how offended they were (by Trump's comments) and what they were going to do and my concern was that they don't do anything to hurt themselves," Khan said, according to Crain's. "We wanted to do something as a team, because a team divided against itself cannot stand."
"You have to give Trump credit, people are confused on the First Amendment versus patriotism, that if you exercise your First Amendment you're not a patriot, which is crazy... People are confused on it, (Trump) knew he could hit on it and take advantage. I think what we're seeing is the great divider overcoming the great uniter," he added.
NFL owners are expected to meet next week to discuss the ongoing controversy surrounding the national anthem protests, according to The Washington Post.