The Latest: NFL union defends players’ right to demonstrate

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s remarks about pro football (all times local):

10:50 a.m.

The executive director of the NFL players’ union is responding to President Donald Trump’s comments about players who kneel during the national anthem, saying no one should have to “choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights.”

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith says in a statement that demonstrations are “protected speech” that has prompted “thoughtful discussions in our locker rooms and in board rooms.”

Trump said Friday he would love to see NFL owners fire players who kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Several athletes, including a handful of NFL players, have kneeled to protest treatment of blacks by police.

Smith says: “The line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just ‘shut up and play.’”

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10:10 a.m.

The commissioner of the National Football League says President Donald Trump’s comments about players who kneel during the national anthem are “divisive” and show an “unfortunate lack of respect.”

Trump said during a speech Friday night that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Several athletes, including a handful of NFL players, have refused to stand to protest treatment of blacks by police.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come back with a strongly worded response. He says Trump’s remarks “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.”

Goodall adds “the NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.”

___

12:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump has a suggestion for National Football League owners whose players decide to take a knee during the national anthem: fire them.

And the president has a similar suggestion for fans of the sport: walk out of the stadium in protest.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the trend last year when he played for the San Francisco 49ers. He hasn’t been signed by an NFL team this season.

Trump’s hard-nosed reaction to protests by several athletes over treatment of blacks by police came Friday night during a freewheeling rally in Alabama. He says such players are disrespecting the flag and deserve to lose their jobs.

Trump also bemoaned that football has become less violent. That view comes amid growing concerns over repeated head blows and a brain disease.

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