Thursday, May 31, 2018

NFL Owners Pushed By Trump On Anthem Policy

President Donald Trump didn’t mince words last fall when he explained to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that he wouldn’t relent in his criticism of NFL players who were kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice.

“This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” Mr. Trump said in a phone call, according to a sworn deposition given by Mr. Jones and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.”

Mr. Jones was deposed in a grievance filed against the National Football League by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who contends that National Football League teams have blackballed him over his anthem protests.

A White House official said that Mr. Trump was advising Mr. Jones on what he believed would be good for the country and good for the sport. “The majority of the American people agree with the president, love our country, love our flag and believe it should be respected,” the official said.

Nearly two years since Mr. Kaepernick’s initial protest, NFL owners last week voted to change league rules: Players on the field for the national anthem are required to stand, or their teams could face repercussions. The overhaul allows players to remain in the locker room for the anthem, which was previously banned, but it also permits teams to punish players that violate the new protocol.

Depositions given by Mr. Jones and other owners indicate that Mr. Trump’s criticism pushed the league to shift its stance. League executives publicly repeated the NFL’s aim to stay out of politics. But privately, they made political calculations in response to Mr. Trump’s repeated hammering of the issue.

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