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NFL and NFLPA respond to Donald Trump's call for protesting players to be fired

Donald Trump reserved some of his harshest comments for NFL players who have protested during the national anthem.

Donald Trump has previously spoken about Colin Kaepernick and protesting players in the NFL, but he used his harshest language during a speech in Alabama on Friday night.

At a rally in support of incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in Hunstville, Ala., Trump said team owners in the NFL should immediately fire any player who protests during the national anthem and “get that son of a bitch off the field.”

He doubled down on those comments a day later on Twitter:

Kaepernick began a movement in the NFL during the 2016 preseason when he began to sit and later kneeled during the national anthem as a way to show support for people of color who are being oppressed in the United States, and to take a stand against police brutality.

In the 13 months since the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback began the protest, other NFL players including Malcolm Jenkins, Marshawn Lynch, Eric Reid, Jeremy Lane, Brandon Marshall, and others, have also protested during the national anthem.

In March, Trump took credit for the free agency of Kaepernick and bragged that NFL owners were afraid to pick up the quarterback because they didn’t want “to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump.”

The NFL has mostly remained silent during Trump’s rise to presidency, but the comments Friday night forced a response, albeit a lukewarm one.

What Donald Trump said in Alabama

During Trump’s speech at the rally, he spent about three minutes talking about the NFL, beginning with his thoughts on protests during the national anthem and eventually turning to his thoughts on the NFL’s television ratings and penalties.

Here is the full transcript of Trump’s comments regarding the NFL:

Less than 24 hours after putting the NFL in his crosshairs, Trump turned his attention to NBA star Stephen Curry, who was “uninvited” from visiting the White House in a tweet Saturday morning.

How the NFL responded

The NFL waited until Saturday morning to release a response to Trump. In it, the league called the comments “divisive,” but was vague regarding the details and didn’t mention player safety, freedom of expression, or even who made the divisive comments in the first place.

The NFL has remained quiet and Roger Goodell has deflected most questions regarding Trump. Shortly after the election in November, he said he believed Trump’s comments about women would only make the league’s attempts to curtail domestic violence more difficult.

However, Goodell passed on the chance to respond to Trump’s Muslim ban and previous comments about protesting players.

How NFL players responded

The NFL Players Association responded before the NFL with a brief statement from executive director DeMaurice Smith early Saturday morning. A few hours later, Smith released a longer response to Trump:

Later on Saturday, NFLPA president and former Texans and Bengals offensive lineman Eric Winston responded:

Plenty of former and current NFL players went to Twitter with their own thoughts about Trump’s comments Friday night. A small sampling:

Even Kaepernick’s mom, Teresa Kaepernick, shared her thoughts on Trump referring to her son and other protesting players with the term “son of a bitch.”

Behind the scenes of an NFL boycott