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The sports community reacts to Trump's comments on NFL player protests

Several New England Patriots players kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Reactions to President Donald Trump's comments about football players who kneel during the national anthem continued to roll out Sunday.

At a rally in Alabama on Friday night, Trump suggested that NFL owners fire players who kneel during the anthem, and fans should consider walking out in protest. On Sunday morning, Trump wrote on Twitter suggesting fans refusing to go to games until players stop disrespecting the flag and country would result in quick change.

Teams across the country have been up in arms over the comments. The Seattle Seahawks remained in the locker room ahead of their game in Nashville; other athletes took similar measures.

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For me to single out any particular group of players and call them SOB's, to me, that is insulting and disgraceful. So I think the players deserve credit for what they do. And when it comes to speech they are entitled to speak. And we are entitled to listen. We are entitled to agree or disagree. But we're not entitled to shut anybody's speech down. Sometimes you don't like what you hear and that is true in life in lots of contexts, but you can't shut people down and be disgraceful when you are doing it.

— Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

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As owners, it is our job to foster an environment that recognizes and appreciates diversity of thought and encourages using this platform in a constructive manner. Rather than make divisive statements, we believe in promoting thoughtful, inspiring conversation that unifies our communities. We are proud of our players, coaches and staff for the important role they play in our community, and we fully support their constitutional right to respectfully and peacefully express their beliefs.

— Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf and the entire Wilf family.

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We were incredibly moved by the meaningful and powerful dialogue they initiated within our organization when they spoke of their intent to unify and not be disrespectful while using familiar and important terms like one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Their intent is to create positive and unifying change and that was demonstrated well by the unity they led prior to our home opener. They have continued to prove this dedication to unite diverse members of our community throughout this past month by establishing direct conversation with the Cleveland Police Department and creating a plan to work together in our neighborhoods.

— Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam.

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The NFL specifically, and football in general, has always unified our communities and families. The comments made by the president were divisive and counterproductive to what our country needs right now. I hope the reaction from our players results in positive action for our league, our communities and our country as a whole to make a positive difference in our society. Texans players are caring, intelligent men who do so much good, as was shown in the past month when our city was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. I have never been more proud of our players and our team than during this time. It was a display of what is truly possible when we all work together. We will continue to support our players to work together to promote the values of respect and unity.

— Houston Texans owner Robert C. McNair.

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We're not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda. (The Steelers made this choice) not to be disrespectful to the anthem but to remove ourselves from this circumstance. People shouldn't have to choose.

— Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. The Steelers' players stayed inside the tunnel during the national anthem, with Tomlin standing on the sideline.

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In this incredibly polarizing time, there's no longer a place to sit silently. It's time to take a stand. We stand for love and justice and civility. We stand for players and their constitutional rights, just as we stand for equality for all people. We stand against divisiveness and hate and dehumanization. We are in the midst of a tremendously challenging time, a time longing for healing. Change needs to happen; we will stand for change. May we all have the courage to take a stand for our beliefs while not diminishing the rights of others as this is the beating heart of our democracy. As a team, we are united in a mission to bring people together to help create positive change. We can no longer remain silent. I will stand with our players.

— Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

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In nearly 25 years as a sports executive and a lifetime spent as an American citizen, I have never been so appalled by the abusive blood lust of my country's highest governmental office to defile my country's constitutional guarantees and selectively attack and demonize my country's people based on their exercise of our constitutional free speech rights.

— Baltimore Orioles executive vice president John Angelos.

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