GREEN BAY, Wis. (ABC NEWS/WBAY) - President Trump turned on the NFL commissioner this evening, after Roger Goodell spoke out about the president condemning players who kneel in protest during the national anthem and calling on team owners to fire those players.
In a tweet, Trump said Goodell is "trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country."
Goodell did not mention the president by name in his statement earlier today.
"Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities."
NFL players across the league and their union -- and even some team officials -- were more direct in their response to Trump's criticism Friday night of the handful of NFL players who have kneeled or sat on the bench during the national anthem performed before games over the past two seasons. The practice was most famously done by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The president of the NFL Players Union, which represents current and former players, released a statement on Saturday: "The balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just 'shut up and play.'"
Union President DeMaurice Smith acknowledged in his statement that “the peaceful demonstrations by some of our players" haven't been universally supported, but "have generated a wide array of responses."
But, he added, "Those opinions are protected speech and a freedom that has been paid for by the sacrifice of men and women throughout history ... No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights."
Hours later Trump fired back at his critics, tweeting that it was a "privilege" for athletes to earn a lucrative career in professional sports.
Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy weighed in Saturday afternoon, saying, "It's unfortunate that the President decided to use his immense platform to make divisive and offensive statements about our players and the NFL.”
Murphy’s statement continued, “We strongly believe that players are leaders in our communities and positive influences. They have achieved their positions through tremendous work and dedication and should be celebrated for their success and positive impact. We believe it is important to support any of our players who choose to peacefully express themselves with the hope of change for good. As Americans, we are fortunate to be able to speak openly and freely."
San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York called the president's comments "callous and offensive" and "contradictory to this great country stands for."
Reaction to Trump's comments on social media by players were largely negative.
Kaepernick did not respond to the Trump's comments in the hours following the speech by Trump.
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett recently reignited the debate when he criticized Las Vegas police for racial profiling following an accidental arrest last month.
Bennett was detained by police outside a Las Vegas casino on Aug. 27 after police responded to a report of gunfire in the area. Video obtained by TMZ of the incident shows an officer yelling at Bennett and pointing his gun at him while he is handcuffed. He was later let go by police.
Bennett has begun sitting on the bench during the national anthem in protest of police violence.
Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett—his brother— showed support, standing on the sidelines with his fist raised during the national anthem prior to the season opening game at Lambeau Field.
Saturday, Martellus Bennet Tweeted, “The idea of @realDonaldTrump thinking that suggesting firing me from football, confirms that he thinks that it's all I can do as a Black man.”
Bennet also Tweeted, “I'm ok with being fired for what I believe in.”
President Trump is no stranger to the National Football League. In February, he was seen dining with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and in January just before his inauguration, the president singled out Kraft at a dinner.