HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) - The commissioner of the National Football League says President Donald Trump's comments about players who kneel during the national anthem are "divisive" and show an "unfortunate lack of respect."

Trump said during a speech Friday night that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Several athletes, including a handful of NFL players, have refused to stand to protest treatment of blacks by police.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come back with a strongly worded response. He says Trump's remarks "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."

Goodall adds "the NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture."

The executive director of the NFL players' union is also responding to President Donald Trump, saying no one should have to "choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights."

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith says in a statement that demonstrations are "protected speech" that has prompted "thoughtful discussions in our locker rooms and in board rooms."

Smith says: "The line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just 'shut up and play.'"