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Kraft Says Trump's Comments Were 'Inflammatory,' Supports Players' Rights To Express Themselves

BOSTON (CBS) -- The controversy of NFL players protesting during the national anthem before games does not appear to be going away any time soon. The NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement on Wednesday in which they said they'll be discussing a cohesive plan next week to try to determine the best course of action for both sides going forward.

Through all of the swirling national coverage and debates of the protests, one of the most surprising voices to come out against President Donald Trump's stance has been Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The two have a long relationship as friends, and Kraft was seen traveling on Air Force One back in March. He also visited Trump Tower in November, after Trump won the election, and he dined with Trump and the Japanese prime minister at Mar-A-Logo in February.

Yet after Trump called for owners to say "get that son of a bitch off the field right now" if a player protested, Kraft released a statement saying he was "disappointed by the tone" of the comments made by the President of the United States.

In an interview with the BBC, Kraft said that Trump's comments were "inflammatory," thus prompting him to release his public statement on Sept. 24.

Robert Kraft
Robert Kraft disembarks from Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on March 19, 2017.(Photo by Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images)

"I think there were some comments made about what our young men were doing that were a little inflammatory and inappropriate, and I thought I had to speak out," Kraft told the BBC. "And I spoke to the team and I told them that they were free to do what they thought was correct."

Donald Trump, Robert Kraft
President Donald Trump talks to Robert Kraft at the White House in April 2017. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Kraft said that he personally believes in standing during the national anthem, but he respects his players enough to try to understand their side.

"The greatest enemy in sport is division from within. And I personally feel it's very important to respect our flag and our anthem. But I also respect the right of people in this country to make statements or protests peacefully, in a way that's appropriate to them," Kraft said.

And, unlike Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Kraft did not threaten any of his players if they choose the national anthem as the time for their demonstrations.

"I try to bring unity and bring things together, and part of that is respecting how other people think, even if it's genuine, even if it's different than the way I speak," Kraft said. "And the way you build team and you build success is to let people be themselves."

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