Trump swayed NFL owners on anthem rules, Kaepernick case depositions reveal

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President Trump's public and personal pressure on NFL owners reportedly played a big role in the league's decision to change its National Anthem rules amid controversial player protests.

The Wall Street Journal obtained depositions from NFL owners, including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, as part of a grievance case filed by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

According to Jones’ deposition, reviewed by the Journal, the president personally told him, “You can’t win this one.”

“This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” Trump reportedly said in a call with Jones. “Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.”

Kaepernick was the first NFL player to protest police violence and racial injustice by refusing to stand for the National Anthem in 2016. But some fans grew tired of the displays, and President Trump hammered protesting players.

Earlier this month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the league would fine teams and league personnel who do not “stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.” Goodell said the league unanimously agreed to the vote, though San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York abstained. The new overhaul does allow players to remain in the locker room for the anthem.

The Journal reported that the depositions suggest the league was influenced to issue the new policy by Trump's activism on the matter.


Trump last week said "the people" were the driving force.

“I think the people pushed it forward, this was not me. I brought it out. I think the people pushed it forward,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends,” noting that NFL owners “did the right thing” by instituting the new policy.

The feud between the White House and the NFL began in September 2017, when during a rally, the president suggested that if a player knelt or refused to stand for the anthem, the owner should “get that son of a b---- off the field.”

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross reportedly said in his deposition that he thought Trump “changed the dialogue.”

“I was totally supportive of [the players] until Trump made his statement,” Ross reportedly said.

Owner of the Houston Texans Bob McNair said he thought the president’s comments were inappropriate.

But McNair, Ross and Jones all reportedly acknowledged that the protests were financially hurting their teams.

Fox News' Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.