NFL owners said in depositions that President Donald Trump factored into discussions on how to handle player protests in regard to the national anthem, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones shared the details of a phone call with the President while testifying in the Colin Kaepernick collusion grievance.
“This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” Trump told Jones, according to the newspaper. “Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.”
A White House official did not dispute the testimony, per The Wall Street Journal.
“The majority of the American people agree with the President, love our country, love our flag and believe it should be respected,” the White House official said.
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair testified that he believed the protests financially were hurting the NFL.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross echoed similar sentiments to the New York Daily News in March.
NFL owners approved a new policy at league meetings earlier this month that requires players and league personnel on the sideline to stand for the national anthem but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they desire.
The policy subjects teams to a fine if a player or any other personnel do not show respect for the anthem. Those clubs will also have the option to fine any team personnel for the infraction.
Trump said the NFL took a step in the right direction with its new policy.
“I think that’s good,” Trump said in the interview with “Fox & Friends” that aired last Thursday. “I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
The change in policy came as a result after some players elected against standing for the national anthem.
Kaepernick started the movement in 2016 to kneel during the national anthem as a protest to denounce police brutality against African-Americans, social injustice and racial inequality. Kaepernick and former 49ers safety Eric Reid have both filed collusion cases against the league after failing to land jobs as free agents.
The anthem topic became a central issue for the NFL after Trump criticized the movement during a speech last September, stating players should be fired for not standing.
“We’re proud of our country. We respect our flag,” Trump said to loud applause at the campaign event in Alabama. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!'”