Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said President Donald Trump's comments regarding players in the league are troubling.
"For me, to single out any particular group of players and call them SOBs, to me, that's insulting and disgraceful," Tagliabue said Sunday morning at Bank of America Stadium, where he was attending the New Orleans Saints-Carolina Panthers game as a guest of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.
Tagliabue praised the work of players in their communities. He said Trump, who called for NFL owners to fire players who don't stand for the national anthem, appeared to be attempting to curtail free speech.
"I think the players deserve credit and should get credit for what they do," Tagliabue said. "When it comes to speech, they're entailed to speak. We're entitled to listen. We're entitled to disagree or agree, for that matter. But we're not entitled to shut anybody's speech down.
"Sometimes you don't like what you hear. That's true in life in lots contexts. But you can't shut people down and you can't be disgraceful when you're doing it."
Tagliabue, 76, finished his time as commissioner in 2006.
"'I'm a private citizen now. I'm not speaking for the league. I don't represent the league," he said. "I think I know a little bit about NFL players.
"From my perspective, they're engaged in many, many positive things across America, all the time. Week-in and week-out. Some of it is protest and ... some of it is supporting the military in Iraq and Afghanistan and visiting over there. Some of it is working in the communities with the police department, EMS people, firefighters and celebrating that as the Cleveland Browns players did a couple of weeks ago."
Richardson has declined comment on Trump's comments over the weekend.