The Carolina Panthers’ new owner, billionaire businessman David Tepper, voiced his support for NFL players who protest during the national anthem.
Tepper, who bought the team from Jerry Richardson and acquired it fully in July, discussed the topic of anthem protests in an interview with CNBC‘s Scott Wapner at Carnegie Mellon University.
“These are some of the most patriotic people and best people,” Tepper said of the players.
“These are great young men. So to say that [they aren’t patriotic] makes me so aggravated and angry. It’s just wrong, it’s dead wrong.”
Tepper’s defense of kneeling players seemed mostly aimed at President Donald Trump, whom Tepper referred to by saying, “There’s a red-headed guy in D.C. that likes to talk about it, but I don’t want to mention his name.”
Trump has been a vocal critic of the protests, along with many other football fans who want to be able to watch a game without being bombarded with political displays, especially during the national anthem.
NFL viewership has been down significantly as many fans have boycotted the league since then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first launched the protests in 2016. Tepper’s childish remark about Trump may have been his venting over this.
In the interview, Tepper spoke of his firm belief in the patriotism of NFL players.
In fact, he believed that not enough good is said about what the players do for their communities.
“You’ve got a lot of people that do a lot of good things. So I think maybe the league could do more,” Tepper said.
“Maybe they can, maybe they can’t, saying how much good the players do,” he continued. “Get that message out more.”
But describing NFL players as a group as some of the “most patriotic” and “best” people may be too much of a reach for the league’s PR people.
The number of arrests of players is staggering, including 24 this year alone, according to USA Today.
If Tepper wants to do anything to change these numbers, supporting those who disrespect the national anthem does not mark a good start.
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