Former NFL Commish Calls Trump’s Words “Disgraceful,” “Unacceptable”

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was in Charlotte Sunday, a guest of Carolina Panthers founder and owner, Jerry Richardson. It was nearly 24 years ago, under Tagliabue’s leadership, that NFL owners unanimously chose Carolina as the league’s 29th franchise, to be run by Richardson.

Today, the league is drawing even more attention than usual, days after President Donald Trump’s profane call for the firing of players who protest.

Fogarty asked Tagliabue, “What is your response to President Trump’s comments?” He said, “I don’t think it’s fair to single out a player or a group of players because they speak about a certain issue in a certain way. Everyone is entitled to speak. We’re entitled to disagree, or agree, but no one is entitled to shut down speech. That’s not America. That’s dictatorship. So I think it’s unfair and in reality, it’s disgraceful to everybody to try to shut down speech and use curse words, inflammatory curse words, in the course of doing it. To me, it is unacceptable.”

Tagliabue called Commissioner Roger Goodell’s response to Trump “short and sweet,” and agreed with what he described as Goodell’s “emphasis” that collectively, divisiveness should be avoided.

Fogarty asked, “Should every team, should every owner in the league, respond to President Trump’s comments?” Tagliabue replied, “I don’t think that’s necessary. I am a believer that in a free society, some kinds of statements that are made discredit themselves.”

Fogarty asked Tagliabue what advice he would you have for President Trump. The former NFL Commissioner replied, “I don’t give advice to presidents. I listen to presidents.”

Tagliabue does give advice to 81-year-old Richardson, who he commends for his continued league leadership in areas like stadiums, the safety of the game and relationships with the Players Association. Tagliabue says, “Jerry and I are sharing an experience. We are both getting older. So when I’ve spoken to him in the last year, 18 months, about some issues in the league, what I end up saying to him is, ‘pick your spots. You can’t do everything.'” Tagliabue continues, “So, I’ve told Mr. Richardson he should be focusing on the Panthers, which is your love, only you can be the leader there because you are the principle owner.” And, “you don’t have to go to every meeting. Send your executive team. But you’ll continue to have a great contribution because you’re focused and you’re credible. And from my perspective, he’s done that well.”