Patriots owner Robert Kraft was never on the same page as President Donald Trump when it came to players protesting racial injustice at NFL games.
In a leaked audio recording from a 2017 NFL meeting, Kraft can be heard criticizing Trump for being “divisive and horrible.” The meeting came one month after Trump ripped “son of a bitch” protestors for kneeling during the national anthem and disrespecting the American flag.
“I must tell you, I think these dialogues are great,” Kraft said in a recording shared by TMZ. “But the elephant in the room now, in my opinion, is this kneeling, which every player has a right to do if they feel it’s right. The problem we have is, we have a president that will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interest of the matter.
“It’s divisive, and it’s horrible. And it’s actually the opposite of what you all are trying to do.”
Kraft added that the NFL had “lost the message to America” because nearly half of the population would be on Trump’s side.
“I just hope one of the things that can come out of here is that we find a way to be unified, and be able to carry through and follow through,” Kraft said.
About 30 people attended the meeting, including owners, executives and players, according to The New York Times. Team owners were reportedly focused on finding a way to avoid Trump’s disapproval and warned players not to get drawn into a war of words with the president.
Despite all of the controversy at the time, this disagreement doesn’t seem to have hurt Kraft’s longtime friendship with Trump.
Kraft praised Trump during a February interview with Fox News, saying he’s “working very hard to serve the best interests of the country.” Kraft also sat at Trump’s table during an official state dinner in July, according to Business Insider.