A Jewish owner of an American football team has condemned Donald Trump's comments about players who are protesting during pre-game renditions of the American national anthem.
Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, who play in the National Football League (NFL), is known as a long-time friend of Mr Trump. But he said he was “deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the president".
Increasing numbers of players have been sitting or kneeling during the national athem as a protest against racial inequality and police brutality against black men.
At a rally on Friday, Mr Trump attacked the players taking part, telling cheering supporters: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired’.”
The practice of "taking a knee" during the anthem was started last year by Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, who said that he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder".
In a statement released on Sunday, Mr Kraft said: “I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger.
“There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics. I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal.
“Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful."
Other Jewish NFL franchise owners who have criticised Mr Trump include Steve Tisch, co-owner of the New York Giants, who called the president's comments “inappropriate, offensive and divisive”.
Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins, released a statement saying: “Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness.
“I know our players who kneeled for the anthem and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone. They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community.”
Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Arthur Blank, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons, also released statements which, while not condemning Mr Trump’s comments directly, expressed support for their players.