Patriots owner Robert Kraft is at the center of most league issues. As an entrusted statesman, he’s often deployed as a mediator between the owners and players, such as at the tail end of the 2011 lockout.
But during the ongoing national anthem controversy, Kraft has seceded attention to hardline owners who demand their players stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner” In an ESPN feature story about this month’s league meetings, Cowboys head-honcho Jones is portrayed as the leader of this faction. Texans owner Bob McNair is also quoted as saying he wants to force players to stand, because the “inmates can’t run the prison.” He apologized Friday for the tone-deaf analogy.
While Kraft hasn’t publicly taken a leadership role during the anthem dispute, it’s apparent he’s attempted to ease tension between both sides. Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr. report Kraft, who’s close friends with President Donald Trump, separated himself from the hardliners during the meeting. Kraft apparently supported the league’s marketing proposal about promoting awareness for the players’ social justice causes, which several other owners rebuked. In addition, Kraft reportedly stressed the player protests would likely dissipate with time. “This argument seemed to find a receptive audience in the room,” Wickersham and Van Natta write.
Towards the end of the 90-minute proceedings, Kraft also reportedly mumbled to two Jets players sitting next to him, "Can we just shut the f--- up and end this?”
In a recent interview with BBC, Kraft said he told his players he supports their right to express themselves. "I spoke to the team and I told them that they were free to do what they thought was correct as long; I try to bring unity and bring things together, and part of that is respecting how other people think,” he said. “Even if it’s genuine, even if it’s different than the way I speak; the way you build team and you build success is to let people be themselves.”
Last month, Kraft said he was “deeply disappointed” when Trump called protesting NFL players “sons of bitches” at a rally in Alabama.
Despite weeks of talks between owners and players, no consensus has been reached on the anthem issue. But Kraft, per usual, seems to be trying.
When they go low, we go high! (Michelle Obama)
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No one is perfect. That includes both you and I. (Yu Darvish)
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