Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long and team owner Jeffrey Lurie participated in a confidential meeting last fall, according to the New York Times, in which NFL players, owners and executives discussed ongoing protests during the national anthem – a conversation that evolved into a debate about why former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick wasn't in the league.
"If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive," the Times, which obtained a recording of the three-hour meeting held in New York in October, quotes Long as saying.
"We all agree in this room as players that he should be on a roster," he said.
The owners in attendance included the Patriots' Robert Kraft, a well-known supporter of President Trump, and the Texans' Bob McNair, who donated $1 million to Trump's campaign. The Times notes the owners were focused on finding a way to avoid the president's criticism of the league, which was increasingly becoming an issue as the president was repeatedly slamming players' protests during the national anthem.
Lurie, addressing the repeated attacks by the president, said: "We've got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whomever else. We have to find a way to not be divided and not get baited."
Owners, according to the Times, were worried about declining ratings – something they attributed to fans' and sponsors' anger over protests. Terry Pegula, owner of the Bills, said the league needed "some kind of immediate plan because of what's going on in society."
Kraft called the players' kneeling the "elephant in the room." McNair said specifically the players should "stop that other business."
Long is one of a number of Eagles players who have been active in social injustice reforms recently. He and Malcolm Jenkins have indicated they will not visit the White House if the Super Bowl champions are invited for a ceremonial visit.
The Eagles were in contact with White House officials this week about the visit, which came into question after it was revealed that Lurie called Trump's presidency "disastrous," according to another Times story published Monday.