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NFL star Tom Brady brands Trump protest comments ‘divisive’

World News | Published:

The New England Patriots quarterback said NFL owners should not fire players who refuse to stand during the national anthem.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is at odds with Donald Trump on the issue of American football players’ protests during the US national anthem, calling the president’s comments “just divisive”.

NFL star Brady told Boston’s WEEI-FM that he “certainly” disagrees with Mr Trump’s comment that NFL owners should fire any player who refuses to stand for the anthem.

Patriots players locked arms with some team-mates during the Star Spangled Banner on Sunday against the Houston Texans, while other players knelt.

The New England Patriots
Some of the New England Patriots players kneel during the national anthem before the NFL match against the Houston Texans (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Brady has called Mr Trump a “good friend” in the past and one of the president’s “Make America Great Again” hats was spotted in Brady’s locker in 2015.

Mr Trump has often praised the quarterback on social media.

Brady skipped a White House visit with Mr Trump in April when the team celebrated its fifth Super Bowl title.

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NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart also criticised Mr Trump, saying players’ protests against racial inequality and police brutality are “real locker room talk”.

This is an apparent reference to Mr Trump being caught on tape talking with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women.

Mr Trump later dismissed his remarks made in the 2005 video, which emerged a month before the November election, as “locker room talk”.

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Lockhart said: “Everyone should know, including the president, this is what real locker room talk is.”

He added: “We don’t seek to get into political debates or relish being in the middle of it, but extraordinary statements from our clubs and owners demonstrate just how deeply we believe in our players and in our game.”

Democratic congressman John Lewis of Georgia, a prominent civil rights leader, said Mr Trump’s comments about protesting NFL players were “beneath the dignity of the president”.

Mr Lewis said he could not believe what he heard during the president’s campaign rally in his native state.

He said Dr Martin Luther King Jr often said Americans have a right to protest for what is right.

Speaking outside the Capitol, Mr Lewis added that Americans have a long history of protesting with peaceful, orderly and non-violent actions.

The leader of the American Olympic movement said the US Olympic Committee recognised the right of athletes to express themselves at the Games, even though the rules forbid political protests.

Last year, the USOC honoured Tommie Smith and John Carlos, whose raised-fist salute during The Star-Spangled Banner at the 1968 Olympics stands as one of the seminal moments in sports protests.

National anthems are played at the Olympics to honour the winners of events.

USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said: “Our stance on this is fairly clear and we recognise the rights of athletes to express themselves.”

Democratic congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York said his message for athletes and coaches was: “We have your back.”

Mr Jeffries, speaking from the House of Representatives floor, said he found it ironic that “the same group of people” who regularly refuse to criticise Russian president Vladimir Putin for his nation’s interference in the 2016 presidential election now criticise professional athletes for their protest actions.

“How dare you lecture us about what’s patriotic,” Mr Jeffries said.

He said the African-America community had endured many atrocities in the nation’s history, including a political brutality epidemic.

He said it was in that context that athletes such as Colin Kaepernick “kneel down so that others may have the courage to stand up”.

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