NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rebuked President Trump for calling on NFL players that protest the national anthem to be fired, saying that his comments are "divisive."
"The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we've experienced over the last month," Goodell said in a statement Saturday morning. "Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities."
The NFL Players Association also declared that "it will never back down" in supporting players' rights.
"Whether or not Roger and the owners will speak for themselves about their views on player rights and their commitment to player safety remains to be seen," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement posted to Twitter Saturday morning. "This union, however, will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks."
Hours earlier, at a rally in Alabama in support of Sen. Luther Strange, who faces a runoff contest next week, Trump urged NFL team owners to get rid of players who kneel during the nation anthem.
"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. He is fired. He's fired,'" Trump said.
A number of players have also piled on Trump for his attack on the NFL, including Redskins linebacker Zach Brown, who tweeted at Trump to "stay in [your] place."
Led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a number of players sparked controversy starting last season when they took a knee during the national anthem to protest the treatment of African Americans and other minorities in the U.S.
During the spring, Trump cited an article that suggested he was the reason that Kaepernick wouldn't get picked up by NFL team owners for fear of a rebuke.