Brennan: Donald Trump missed the memo: Don't pick on football players

President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during rally for Alabama state Republican Senator Luther Strange in Huntsville, Alabama. Trump took shots at the NFL during his speech.

By unleashing his own despicable brand of fire and fury against the National Football League and the First Amendment rights of its players Friday night, President Donald Trump exhibited his failure to grasp the lesson every schoolyard bully learned long ago:

Don’t pick on the football players.

In an uplifting sign of solidarity against the appalling close-mindedness of the President of the United States, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith both did what so many in Washington still seem unwilling to do:

They stood up to Trump, calling him out Saturday morning for what can only be described as a pathetic lack of leadership.

After the President said Friday night at a speech in Huntsville, Ala., that protesting the national anthem should be a fire-able offense – “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!” – and mocked the NFL’s attempts to make the game safer at a time when concern for concussions and chronic brain injuries has never been greater, Goodell and Smith were ready for him.

Smith, who often stands at odds with Goodell on player-related issues, went first.

“Whether or not Roger (Goodell) and the owners will speak for themselves about their views on player rights and their commitment to player safety remains to be seen,” Smith said in a statement posted on Twitter. “This union, however, will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks.”

Goodell definitely spoke for himself minutes later.

“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” Goodell said in his statement, which also appeared on Twitter.  “There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we've experienced over the last month.  

"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.”

GOODELL'S RESPONSE:NFL commish responds to Trump's 'divisive' comments

PLAYERS RESPOND:NFL players fire back on social media

NOT DETERED:NFLPA vows Trump comments will not deter protests, safety

Their forceful answers stood in stark contrast to Trump’s blistering attack on those NFL players, most notably Colin Kaepernick, who have taken a knee or sat during the national anthem over the past two seasons to protest violence against minorities by the police and other race-related issues.

Let it be noted that Trump mustered more anger Friday over Kaepernick’s personal decision to not stand for the anthem than he did for the neo-Nazis and white Supremacists who marched in Charlottesville’s deadly protest last month.

And this is as good a time as any to mention that Kaepernick is reported to be very close to completing his goal of donating $1 million to charity.

Trump’s other rant -- against the NFL’s attempts to make football safer -- could not have been more ill-timed. 

“They’re ruining the game, right? They’re ruining the game,” Trump bellowed just a day after it was announced that Aaron Hernandez, the former New England tight end who hanged himself in his jail cell after being convicted of murder, had a severe form of CTE, the debilitating brain disease, at the very young age of 27.

One wonders how such comments play in living rooms across the nation, where parents continue to grapple with their son’s (and the occasional daughter’s) interest in playing such a popular and violent game that both delights and scares the masses. 

This isn't just an issue about calling penalties in the NFL. It's about the safety and long-term well-being of millions of young American athletes.

The President of the United States couldn't have cared less about that Friday night.

PHOTOS: Trump and football