Carolina Panthers

David Tepper: It’s ‘dead wrong’ to accuse protesting NFL players of being unpatriotic

New Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper said it’s “dead wrong” to accuse NFL players of being unpatriotic should they choose to protest during the national anthem.

In an interview with CNBC’s Scott Wapner Thursday in Pittsburgh, Tepper was careful not to mention outright the name of President Donald Trump, who routinely slams NFL players who protest police brutality and racism during the national anthem. Kneeling during the anthem is a practice started by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick at the start of the 2016 season.

“It’s the biggest pile of bull-dingy ever. These are some of the most patriotic people and best people. These are great young men,” Tepper told CNBC. “It just makes me so aggravated and angry. OK? It’s just wrong. It’s just dead wrong.”

People should focus on what NFL players do in the community instead of what they do during the national anthem, Tepper added.

Tepper cited, for instance, Cam Newton, Thomas Davis (whom Tepper called “Tom” Davis), Greg Olsen and Torrey Smith. “The list goes on and on of Panthers who are involved in the community down there,” Tepper said.

“I’m not criticizing anybody but we could do a better message saying how much people can do good in the community. That’s what I would want to see happen,” Tepper told CNBC.

In the past, Tepper has been, as Wapner noted, “exceptionally critical” of Trump.

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Before the 2016 election, for instance, Tepper slammed then-candidate Trump for failing to donate to relief efforts after disasters that struck New York, including 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, despite claims by Melania Trump that her husband is generous. “Trump masquerades as an angel of light, but he is the father of lies,” Tepper told CNBC at the time.

In the interview Thursday at Carnegie Mellon University with CNBC, on the new quad that bears Tepper’s name, Warpner tried several times to steer Tepper back into talking about the national anthem, which Warner, said “everybody is talking about.”

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Tepper responded that there’s “a red-headed guy in D.C. that likes to talk about it. But I don’t want to mention his name right now.” Wapner pressed the issue further, coaxing Tepper with “everybody knows who you’re talking about.”

“Well I don’t know — Howdy Doody, who is that?”

Tepper went on to note that “justice for all,” is what fans should be focusing on.

“Everybody is standing this season because I think people understand this. It’s what you do in the community, it’s what you do out there. And we have a lot of good guys. The players are good guys, who do a lot of things out there,” Tepper told CNBC.

Tepper, who bought the Panthers for an NFL-record $2.275 billion this summer, went on in the CNBC interview to discuss how he’s enjoyed NFL ownership so far.

“It’s great stuff. Listen, I think I’m the only undefeated owner in the history of the NFL right now. So we’ll see if we can keep that going.”