Deposition transcripts revealed that President Donald Trump made several calls to NFL owners in September 2017 during the controversy over players protesting by kneeling during the national anthem, according to The Wall Street Journal and confirmed by Yahoo Sports.
According to the reports, Trump reached out to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross about the protests, which became a source of division among NFL fans, players, owners last season.
What did they talk about?
According to the transcripts, the calls from Trump came in September 2017, after the president made headlines by publicly attacking the NFL for not requiring players to stand during the national anthem.
Ross made it plain during his deposition that he changed his mind on the protests when Trump condemned them.
"I was totally supportive [of the players] until Trump made his statement," Ross said in his deposition, according to The Wall Street Journal. "I thought he changed the dialogue."
"Tell everybody, you can't win this one," Trump reportedly told Jones during their call. "This one lifts me."
Trump was allegedly inferring that he stood to benefit politically by attacking the NFL, and that he had no intention of changing his stance on the issue to make life easier for the NFL team owners.
From Yahoo Sports:
The message being that he wasn’t going away and that Jones needed to relay that to other owners and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. At one point, Jones said Trump called the protesting controversy a “very winning, strong issue for me.” The Wall Street Journal also reported that two other owners – the New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft and Miami Dolphins’ Stephen Ross – also said in separate depositions that they spoke to Trump about player protests, which were initially begun by Kaepernick to raise awareness of social, racial and criminal justice concerns.
Jones was one owner who last season clearly told his team that they needed to stand for the national anthem. Before a game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Cowboys took a knee as a team before national anthem, then stood up when the song began to play.
What is the significance?
This information is the latest bit of news to come out of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's collusion grievance against NFL owners, who he says colluded against him to keep him out of the league because of his protests.
Kaepernick's legal representatives appear to be attempting to connect the pressure from Trump on the owners to their allegedly collective decision not to sign him, despite their reported belief that he was a good enough football player to be on a team, potentially even as a starter.