In audio, Robert Kraft calls President Trump's rhetoric on NFL players 'divisive, horrible'

In public, New England Patriots team owner Robert Kraft has largely been supportive of President Donald Trump.

There was a reported rift in their relationship over Trump’s handling of the Colin Kaepernick situation, though in February of this year in an appearance on Fox News, Kraft said Trump is “working very hard to serve the best interest of the country.”

Kraft hasn’t always been so supportive.

In audio released by TMZ on Friday, Kraft is heard calling Trump’s rhetoric around NFL players, particularly Colin Kaepernick and others who kneeled or raised a fist during the playing of the anthem to bring attention to issues of racial and social injustice, “divisive” and “horrible.”

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President Donald Trump speaks during a dinner hosted by the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in honor of the Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, both seated at the table at left, at the Treasury Department in Washington, Monday, July 8, 2019. Also seated at the table at left are International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06: Real estate tycoon Donald Trump talks with Patriots' team owner RObert Kraft on the sidelines as of the New England Patriots and the New York Jets warm up prior to their game at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 07: (L-R) Donald Trump and owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft stand on the sidelines before the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on January 7, 2007 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Myra Kraft and Robert Kraft attends 20th Anniversary Discovery Celebration benefiting Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund at Mar-a-Lago on February 19, 2011 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Lucien Capehart/Getty Images)
Donald Trump (L) chats with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (R) prior to the AFC Divisional NFL playoff football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Foxborough, Massachusetts January 12, 2008. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Akie Abe (R, partially obscured) attend dinner with U.S. President Donald Trump his wife Melania, and Robert Kraft (2nd-L), owner of the New England Patriots at Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida U.S., February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
US President Donald Trump holds a jersey given to him by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (R) and head coach Bill Belichick (L) alongside members of the team during a ceremony honoring them as 2017 Super Bowl Champions on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, April 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 19: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft delivers remarks during an event celebrating the team's Super Bowl win hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump on the South Lawn at the White House April 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. It was the team's fifth Super Bowl victory since 1960. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON D.C. - APRIL 19: President Donald Trump, center left, greets New England Patriots team owner Robert Kraft, center right, as team members look on during a ceremony at the White House in Washington D.C. on Apr. 19, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with CEO of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft during an event honoring the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

TMZ says Kraft made the remark at an October 2017 “NFL Summit”; the Patriots have not yet responded to an email requesting clarity on when the comments were made and who was in the audience.

In September 2017, Trump called NFL players who protest “sons of bitches” at an event in Alabama.

Here’s the text of the audio:

“...That’s what the players were talking about when they knealt, but the way it was interpreted in the marketplace, it was disrespectful of the flag, the military. Any of us who have the privilege of being involved in NFL franchises know how great the players are and how they’re different than the average Americans; they believe to be good, believing in teamwork, working together, all the stuff that all of us are privileged to know.

“But I must tell you: I think these dialogues are great, but the elephant in the room now, in my opinion, is this kneeling, which every player has a right to do if they feel it’s right, the problem we have is that we have a president that will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interest of Americans — it’s divisive and it’s horrible and it’s actually the opposite of what you all are trying to do. If there’s a way we can link that to whatever we’re doing and now, understand — we’ve lost the message to America because there’s just 40 percent of the people who see this, who just see this as their own, whatever their own bigotry or misunderstandings are, it feds into it. I just hope that one of the things that can come out of here is we find a way to be unified and be able to carry through and follow through, and I do think most teams are doing this stuff already, maybe the connection between the players and ownership hasn’t been as strong as it should be.”

In the days after Trump’s “son of a bitch” comment, Kraft released a statement saying he was “deeply disappointed” with Trump’s words and that he was proud to be associated with so many players making “tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities.”

Kraft has a long relationship with Trump, and has said that Trump called him frequently as his wife, Myra, battled ovarian cancer before her death in 2011.

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