Several NFL players responded harshly Thursday to President Donald Trump’s comments supporting the league’s new national anthem policy, which calls for fines or punishment for any form of disrespect during the anthem.
“I think that’s good,” Trump said in an interview with “Fox & Friends” that taped Wednesday and aired Thursday. “I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, who knelt during the anthem before several games during the 2016 season and once last season, called Trump’s words “disgusting.”
“I say disgusting because of our First Amendment rights,’’ he said. “We’ve got freedom of speech, right? Freedom to protest? Just because somebody chooses to protest, now we’ve got to be kicked out of the country? That’s not how things should work, in my opinion. It’s not about, just because somebody disagrees with something, if I don’t stand for the anthem, if I don’t like what’s going on, that’s basically him saying I should be kicked out the country.
“... Everybody is not going to agree on things, everybody is not going to have the same opinion on things, so just because somebody disagrees on something, an issue, with something that’s going on in this country, that they should pack up and leave — that’s absurd, in my opinion.’’
Seattle Seahawks wideout Doug Baldwin also had a strong reaction to the president’s comments.
“He’s an idiot,” Baldwin said of Trump. “Plain and simple.” I respect the man because he’s a human being, first and foremost. He’s just being more divisive, which is not surprising. It is what it is.
“For him to say that anyone who doesn’t follow his viewpoints or his constituents’ viewpoints should be kicked out of the country, it’s not very empathetic, it’s not very American-like, actually to me. It’s not very patriotic. It’s not what this country was founded upon. It’s kind of ironic to me that the President of the United States is contradicting what our country is really built on.”
A college roommate of Colin Kaepernick while the pair played together at Nevada, Marshall was one of the first players to join Kaepernick in kneeling during the anthem to protest social injustice. Marshall added that while he doesn’t like the league’s new anthem policy, he understands why it was put in place.
“That’s my opinion: I don’t like it,’’ he said. “I understand it, though, I don’t like it, but I understand it and what they’re trying to protect — they’re trying to protect the shield. The reason we did this in the first place, was to bring attention to police brutality, that’s the reason, that was just a symbol for what was going on, just like the flag is a symbol of America.
“So, taking a knee was a symbol and the work came after that. Colin has been doing work, I’ve been doing work, Malcolm Jenkins, a bunch of guys have been doing work, so to me the knee wasn’t the end all, be all. There should have been action behind the knee, and there was.’’
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns said he plans to stand for the anthem, but he opposes the new policy and expects it to be a source of division, rather than unity, within teams. He described the new rules as a form of “bullying” and said the subject will be “another topic to get everybody against each other.”
“It makes (protesters) look bad,” Burns said. “Your whole team is out there (for the anthem) and you come running out (of the locker room) like, ‘Oh, he’s the guy.’ Who wants to go through that? That’s humiliating us as a person, because we’re trying to stand for something, to single us out in front of everybody.”
Marshall isn’t so sure the new policy will limit protesting, in part because its language indicates teams will be fined for any form of disrespect shown during the anthem, rather than players being fined.
“I feel like it might make people rebel,’’ he said. “ ... And let’s be clear, they say they might fine the team, but players don’t care about that — players don’t care if the team gets fined.’’
—Field Level Media