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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Town Hall - Patriotism, Players and the President. Aired 9- 10pET

Aired September 27, 2017 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: America's finest athletes --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boos can be heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump on Friday called for NFL owners to, quote, "fire" players for these demonstrations.

ANNOUNCER: -- confronting one of America's deepest wounds --

COLIN KAEPERNICK, FORMER NFL PLAYER: This is not something I'm going to be quiet about.

ANNOUNCER: -- on bended knee --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our national anthem.

ANNOUNCER: -- in millions of homes on any given Sunday.

Scenes like these across the NFL and beyond now raising questions. Should protesting racial injustice be part of the pro sports playbook?

LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: I salute the NFL.

ANNOUNCER: Or is it illegal procedure?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Get that son of a bitch off the field right now.

ANNOUNCER: Is it disrespect to our country or a tribute to the republic for which it stands? The wrong venue or the right place at the right time?

TRUMP: The NFL has to change. Or you know what's going to happen? Their business is going to go to hell.

ANNOUNCER: In a divided nation, this is an ANDERSON COOPER 360 town hall event, the vital conversation, "Patriotism, The Players, and The President". We're all part of the game.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And hello and welcome.

In just a moment, people all around me will be the ones in charge. They've got questions to ask, opinions to voice, and safe to say, they are not alone.

This weekend, tens of millions of Americans tuned in and saw NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem and linking arms or doing it before the anthem, or simply staying in the locker room during pre-game ceremonies as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks did.

This was not the first such demonstration which began as a way of calling attention to racial injustice. It was, however, the biggest, most coordinated, the widest-reaching public protest in a very long time, in part because the president has made it so, and he stayed after today as you heard just a second ago in our open, the president said that if the NFL doesn't change, then its business is, quote, going to go to hell.

Tonight, a conversation with social activists, current and former football players, veterans, citizens. Joining us, among others, and taking your questions, director Spike Lee, former Pittsburgh Steelers great Hines Ward, former Green Beret and football player Nate Boyer, and former Jet, Reverend Michael Faulkner.

We invited the White House to send a representative, they declined. We still hope to bring you all sides of the debate, with, of course, plenty of input from our audience members.

But we do want to start with one of the key voices in the conversation, and that's with Malcolm Jenkins. He's a Philadelphia Eagles safety, long-time protester off the field. He serves the community. His nonprofit, The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, provides scholarships, food, essential resources and sports programs in Philadelphia and around the country.

Malcolm, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

You -- to you, this is not --

MALCOLM JENKINS, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES SAFETY: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: -- this is not a new protest. You've been, since last season, you've been raising a fist during the national anthem. And I wondered if you could just explain why.

JENKINS: Well, one thing I think that has been missing over this entire year is us getting to the real issues. And I think it started when last summer you had the shooting of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.

And as a black man in America with a platform, you know, I no longer wanted to stand behind social media while we posted hashtag after hashtag of, you know, black people dying at the hands unnecessarily of law enforcement. And so, the first thing I wanted to do was get an understanding of how

I could play a role in becoming a part of the solution, and the way I did was sitting with local police officers, and finding out what are some of their struggles were, their issues were, their training, did they need resources. And through those conversations, we began to work on some dialogue and how we could better that relationship.

And soon thereafter, you had the protest of Colin Kaepernick. And I think what that did was that it showed athletes who were already doing this work behind the scenes that we could bring this stuff to the forefront and really change the dialogue nationally about these issues and draw attention to what's happening in our communities.

COOPER: And, Malcolm, to those who say taking a knee during the national anthem or not coming out during the national anthem is disrespectful, it's unpatriotic, disrespectful to the flag, what do you say?

JENKINS: I understand where that could come from and why they would feel that way. But I think you have to check the track record of a lot of the players that are demonstrating and the NFL in general. I think we do a great job of honoring, you know, our military, our flag through your events. What we do -- we have first responders, military and police at almost every NFL game that we honor, and hold up high.

But this is not about them. It's not about the flag at all. This is us as concerned citizens trying to play our role in a bigger conversation about race in America, a bigger conversation about our criminal justice system and our law enforcement.

And this is not an indictment against law enforcement or police. We're not anti-police. We -- many of us have worked hand in hand with law enforcement to figure out ways to really move us forward in a better direction, to re-instill trust in our law enforcement and to really hold that accountability and transparency that our communities are looking for.

COOPER: When you heard the president in Alabama on Friday say that those taking the field, players taking the field are sons of bitches, I'm wondering, personally, that what meant to you? And also, now, the president is saying that those who do take a knee or protest should be fired?

JENKINS: Well, I think it just -- you know, for my personally it didn't bother me much because I know who I am and I know the work that I've done. And it just shows that, you know, our president does not know much about the guys who are behind those helmets and face masks. You've got players like Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Chris Long, Michael Bennett, Devin McCourty, Johnson Battamuci (ph), Glover Quinn (ph), Kenny Stills, and the list goes on.

These are guys who are not only proclaiming and being activists, you know, verbally, and with their platform, but they're behind the scenes doing work in their communities and doing great work and being inclusive and speaking and trying to do their best to make this America great. And so, for him to make those comments just shows there's a lack of

understanding of who we are as players, what we do. And hopefully, we can continue to showcase that and really use our platform for the betterment of our country and our communities.

COOPER: Do you worry about the debate the way it's been the last couple days and all the attention on, you know, are players going to take the knee, are they linking arms, are they staying -- that the original intent, that the original concern about social justice, racial inequality, that that is being lost in this?

JENKINS: I think so. There's definitely a need to refocus, you know, this conversation on what it was originally. And that is, we need accountability for our law enforcement and transparency, to build trust and our communities can trust the law enforcement once again, and our law enforcement can do their job safely and effectively.

We don't like to talk about some of these issues, the fact that black people are five times more likely to be shot and killed by an officer than white people. That's something that's tough for us to swallow. And, you know, it's not only the people being killed, because that's a small percentage of police interactions with the community. But there's also the treatment of black people at the hands of officers that needs to be addressed and these implicit biases that we all have that play a big role in how people are treated.

And the criminal justice system that we have, that's broken, quite frankly broken, and oftentimes affects communities of color more than everybody else and it's detrimental not only to the individual but their home and their communities.

We talk about our bail system and the fact that you have 450,000 people every night in jail, not because they've been convicted of any crime but because they can't afford bail to get out. And it's costing us $40 million or $38 million a day to keep people in jail when we could be using that money to better our schools, to rehabilitate people, to give people an opportunity.

Our reentry programs, when people get caught up in this system, when they're trying to come back out in society, they're hit with a bunch of road blocks. You talk about, you know, people with records are the only people that it is legal to discriminate against, and one in three people in America have a criminal record or arrest record.

And so, you're talking about lack of resources when it comes to housing, education, loans, voting, all these things that you lose, but yet we tell these people -- we send them back into the communities and tell them to be productive, we tell them to do the right thing, but they've lost all kinds of opportunities.

So, it's time for us to focus on those issues and steer away from debating on what's right and what's wrong.

COOPER: I am wondering, though, I mean, what happens next weekend? What happens the weekend after that? Does this -- does this continue -- does it continue like it was this past weekend? JENKINS: Well, I think -- I think players will continue to do it

because, you know, one thing I hear a lot is from fans is, you know, find a better way to do it. I've asked for an entire year, please show me a better platform and show me a better way that won't allow us to ignore these issues, you know, longer because we've done this silently before, and it has gone uncovered. But this platform has given us an opportunity to keep these conversations at the forefront.

And I've met with many politicians -- and criminal justice reform is a bipartisan -- has bipartisan support. And so, it's not about which side you're on. Everyone knows we need to do this but it's not high enough on -- or high enough on the agenda.

And so, as an athlete with a platform, I feel like this is an opportunity to continue to push that and draw awareness to it. So, I see this -- I see them continuing until we see some real significant --

COOPER: Problem with the satellite just on that last sentence.

Malcolm Jenkins, I appreciate your time and we look forward to talking to you in the future. Thanks so much, Malcolm.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: I want to introduce everybody panel. We got Spike Lee here, Hines Ward, Nate Boyer and the Reverend Michel Faulkner.

Reverend, you heard what Malcolm said. You think it is disrespectful to the flag, is that correct?

REV. MICHEL FAULKNER, FORMER NFL PLAYER: At that moment when the flag is raised, it should be saluted. That's my -- you know, listen, I'm a Baptist minister. When somebody's praying at the pulpit, you can't walk in.

There's certain rules in the house, you know? In our church, men take off their hats. It's that kind of thing.

Is there a cause for protest? Absolutely. I get it. I agree with so much of what Malcolm is saying and --

COOPER: But that's not the time nor the place?

FAULKNER: But that's not the time nor place to me. I mean, that's my -- my statement is, you know, when those -- when those colors are raised, I'm going to salute. That does not mean that I believe America is perfect, but I believe the ideal of America is worth continuing to work for.

COOPER: Spike?

SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: That means they're unpatriotic? I'm asking you a question. Does that mean that these brothers --

FAULKNER: No. LEE: -- when they take a knee, are you saying they're unpatriotic?

FAULKNER: No, I didn't say that.

LEE: OK.

COOPER: But, Spike, to those who say, look, this is not the time nor place, and a lot of fans of the game say that, look, I don't want to turn on the game and this is not the right time?

LEE: Politics and sports have always been intertwined, and you can't -- we live in the United States of America. Race is a part of the DNA of this country.

This country, the foundation of America was the genocide of Native Americans and slavery. That's the foundation of this country that cannot be disputed. And so, that's the foundation. Everything else comes from that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well --

HINES WARD, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Politics and sports, I mean, it's very hard to juggle that because in our world, the football world, we don't see color. We see teammates, you know, come from all different places all over.

LEE: Can I just say something?

WARD: Go ahead.

LEE: What did it take Bear Bryant to get a black player in Alabama? They played USC --

WARD: Yes.

LEE: And he said we need to get some -- so how can you is a say sports, how can you say football is not --

WARD: No, politics is -- because you got to look at it. In our world, is there -- that's where the league is trying to do, trying to figure out where's the fine balance of trying --

LEE: But I can just say, Hines, in all respect -- the players are different from management and the owners. And they are the people that are running things.

WARD: Yes, but then there's two sides, though.

LEE: OK.

WARD: There's two sides, right? There's one side that's trying to say social injustice and trying to make equality for this, and then there's a side that they look at the flag and whatever that flag represents to you, so be it.

But then, there's a lot of people that really just want to play football. They don't want to have to pick sides. They just wants to play football, the game that they loved doing as a child, the game they make a lot of money to make -- to provide for their families, you know, from where they come from. A lot of that -- a lot of those players are frustrated because they feel like they have to choose.

COOPER: Nate, I want to ask you. You're a former Green Beret, served from 2005 to 2015, am I right?

NATE BOYER, FORMER U.S. ARMY GREEN BERET: Yes.

COOPER: You wrote a public letter to Colin Kaepernick and he actually responded. You communicated with him, correct?

BOYER: Right, yes.

COOPER: And so, he originally was sitting during the national anthem. That upset you. I'm wondering just what you said to him, because a lot of people point to you as a person who has suggested that he'd take a knee rather than sit.

BOYER: Yes. I mean, it wasn't necessarily the gesture itself. It was just -- that was the first person publicly protesting the anthem that I recognized, that I noticed. And I'm a Niner fan. I was Kaepernick fan.

And it just really hurt because of what that flag and anthem means to me -- you know, my personal relationship with it. You know, that flag comes home and it's draped over coffins of our fallen brothers and sisters, and it's folded and handed to, you know, a spouse or a child of somebody.

So, for me, it just means something a little bit different. And so, I was -- I was hurt, initially, I was angry. And -- but I was looking at our country right now, and where we're at and don't the shouting and the everyone so concerned with just being right and not listening to the other side, even when the other side seems crazy.

Because when we're overseas, we're in Afghanistan and Iraq, I don't agree with most of the customs and cultures. But I have to put that aside and swallow my pride and have a little humility and just say, you know what, I don't know what it's like to grow up where you grew up. You know what I mean? I just know my experience.

And so, I try to take that into account in that situation because I don't know anything -- I don't know what it's like to be anybody but Nate Boyer and never will, no matter what color or anything. And so, for me, I just wanted to come with an open mind and just listen for once because I have a bad habit of judging, I think everybody does. I just -- I wanted to stop that in myself. And that's what that letter came from.

And, you know, he reached out and we were able to sit down together for a couple of hours before the preseason game last year. And it was really cool to hear him just listen to him be open minded, too, and just like -- look, he said, I don't want to hurt you, I don't want to hurt your brothers and sisters. I showed him text messages of friends of mine, some of them were

saying I was a disgrace to the Green Beret because I was even meeting with him, and some were like, I'm with you, man, but, you know, that really hurts me to see that, you know? And so, I talked to him and I said, I think a knee, we both said, it was mutual, I think me, him, and Eric Reed (ph), I mean, maybe taking a knee would be a little bit more respectful, it's still a demonstration, you're still saying something, but people take a knee to pray.

FAULKNER: Right.

BOYER: You know? And so, for me, it was like -- it was a common ground at least to start from.

COOPER: It's not -- just to be clear, though, it's not something you advocate or support, but you felt taking a knee was better than sitting on a bench.

BOYER: I want Colin Kaepernick and every American to stand because they want to stand, but I want them all to stand. I'm more interested if someone's taking a knee because they really care about something than the guy in the stands or the girl in the stands or whoever that feels obligated to stand up when the anthem is played, because that's how I used to be before I served. And I didn't care. You know what I mean?

It's like, oh, you got to take your hat? Oh, you know, song's playing, when is it over, I want to hear play ball and keep going. You know what I mean?

COOPER: Reverend, to those -- you know, Spike brought the point that there's a long tradition of protest in sports. I mean, Muhammad Ali who, you know, now if you poll this room, everyone will say he's a great man. He was vilified --

FAULKNER: Hated.

COOPER: -- hated, you know, for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War.

FAULKNER: Yes, as Americans --

LEE: And he was called un-American.

FAULKNER: He was.

(CROSSTALK)

FAULKNER: But see, as Americans, it's part of our responsibility. Part of -- talk about the DNA of America? The DNA of America is protest. I mean, the Boston tea parties is what got this whole thing kicked off. It was a protest movement.

We are -- but protesting and that flag, we have come so far, and that flag to me represents something sacred. It's not perfect.

I know about slavery, I know about the history of racism, I experienced racism in this country, in this day today, in this day and age. However, as an American, as a Christian, I continue to fight to make it better.

That's my job. That's my responsibility. That's what Malcolm was talking about.

LEE: I know, but you don't think that -- you don't think that the players are protesting -- you don't think they're trying to do their part to make this country better?

FAULKNER: Oh, absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: They're bringing light to stop (INAUDIBLE) we're talking about.

FAULKNER: They really are.

But you know what? My part of this conversation is this, I'm saying, OK, now that you've got everybody's attention and you're literally holding the mic, what do we do now? How do we move this conversation forward because literally, as a nation, we are all listening? And we've got to say, what next?

Malcolm was talking about some great things. Listen, I'm running for office. I'm running for New York City controller. I'm not a politician. I'm social entrepreneur.

I believe in America. I believe in this country. I believe in serving. I left as vice president --

LEE: The protesters have the same beliefs you have.

FAULKNER: OK, but, Spike, we've got to put it in someplace. I mean, listen, you're an artist. You make movies.

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: We wouldn't be here --

FAULKNER: You tell stories that motivate people, that inspire people, that make people laugh or make people cry, or make people be -- you know --

BOYER: I think this is -- I think this is less about, in my opinion, at least for me, wanting the players to change and do something different. I think it's more about wanting our country to change.

FAULKNER: Exactly.

BOYER: You know, because I got on -- whether it's social media or whatever, it is just -- it's some hateful stuff and it's awful, and it makes me sick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Divisive. BOYER: When you go fight for your country and for other people that will never have this and you're just trying to give them a glimpse of hope, and then you come back and it's just, kah, kah, kah (ph)--

COOPER: I actually got a message from a Navy SEAL who's serving overseas right now who said, who reached out the other day and he said, what is going on? Like, what is going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're doing something.

COOPER: I know. But you're serving with your brothers in arms and there's this unity and you look back at the country you're representing. And, you know?

We got to take a break. We're going to continue the conversation and take questions from the audience when our "360" town hall continues.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Hey, we're back. Before getting to the questions from the audience members I just want to read a portion of an open letter written to be NFL by Taya Kyle -- she's the widow of Navy SEAL and sniper, Chris Kyle. She writes, "Your desire to focus on division and anger has shattered what many people love most about the sport. You're asking us to abandon what we love about togetherness and make choices of division -- will we stand with you? Will we stand with our flag?

I want you to meet Vincent and Diana Bonacasa. They're the parents of staff Sergeant Lewis Michael Bonacasa. Sergeant Bonacasa also was on his fourth tour in the Middle East when he was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan along with five of his brothers in arms. He left behind his daughter Lily Anna and his wife Deborah who is also a veteran. You have a question I think for Spike?

BONACASA: Last Sunday our community had celebration for Gold Star parents. It was a very humbling ceremony but it brought us back to the day we lost our son. It was a very empty feeling. We came home, turned on the TV and there was the NFL players on their knees. That was a slap in the face to us. So, my question is how do you support these multimillionaires on their knees and don't support what the fallen heroes died for?

LEE: Sir, I'm very sorry for your loss but the narrative that you spoke about is not true. All these players have said many, many, times that they've respect the armed forces. They respect the flag and they respect America and this narrative that when they take a knee it's insulting your son who is no longer here is not true -- they've said that again and again and again.

COOPER: But there's a lot of people who look at this as disrespectful.

LEE: But a lot of people thought in the 1968 Olympics -- this is why I'm wearing this shirt -- John Carls and Tommy Smith when they won the Olympics they put the black fist up. A lot of you felt that was ...

BONACASA: Excuse me, I have one other question. When North Korea aims a missile at us are these football players going to be on their knees or are they going to support our veterans?

LEE: Say that again?

BONACASA: When North Korea aims a nuclear missile at us are these heroes that you say -- NFL -- that can't support our flag are they going to be on their knees when this happens or are they going to support our veterans?

LEE: Sir, I'm worried just as much about Donald Trump as that crazy guy in North Korea -- and he has a nuclear code. I'm worrying about that.

BONACASA: We're worried about it too.

LEE: Well, we're worrying together, then.

COOPER: If you could just speak to that -- when you see the flag and you see what these players are doing, is it, to you, disrespectful to the flag?

BOYER: It hurts me every time -- I will say that. I will say it hurts me. Because I know these guys -- I know all these guys personally I know that is not their intent to disrespect. I don't see it that way but that's because I've had those conversations, I think.

So, as an outsider I can understand how you would view it that way. And on the veterans' side -- on the veteran issue we have -- we've got 22 veterans taking their own lives a day right now. We have a lot of issues on that, you know. So, that's something that I think needs to be spoken about more and maybe demonstrated in some way but we could never do something like that during the anthem; right?

And I've actually spoken to players about -- mentioning to them this is obviously -- racism in America absolutely exists -- it is an issue. We need to fix it. We're a great country -- probably the greatest country but we could be a hell of a lot greater. And I just think -- and if a lot of those guys would kind of recognize it's not the only issue I think more people from that other side -- that polarized opposite may listen -- may open up.

COOPER: Brendan Gilmore is here. Brendan tweeted a photo of his grandfather last week that went viral. In the photo, his grandfather who is a 97-year-old World-War-II veteran is taking a knee to support those in the NFL that did the same.

Brendan also participated in the counter protest in Charlottesville. He was a witness to the violence there. He served as a Foreign Service Officer in Africa in the Middle East for 15 years and I think you have a question for Michael. Thanks for being here.

GILMORE: Yes, thank you. My grandfather and I both served and we love our country -- the flag and anthem. But to us patriotism is about something deeper -- it's about the core values and the ideas and aspirations that are enshrined in our Constitution which has always been a work in progress.

Now my grandfather's actions I see as saying, "Don't use my service to divide us and to distract us from the core issue of addressing systemic racial injustice." So, I want to go back to the question that the reverend had raised about, what are the concrete steps we all need to be taking in a unified way both as individuals and as a country to make progress on racial justice?

COOPER: Reverend?

FAULKNER: You know Malcolm talked about a lot of things that he was doing engaging law enforcement directly. I think -- it's amazing, when I played with the Jets we had this program called Goals for Youth and I actually went upstate New York -- in rural, upstate New York and worked with migrant workers' children. These kids were so poor -- I mean dirt-floor poor. I had never seen poverty -- it was like Appalachian poor. I had never seen poverty like this.

And I just spent time with each kid -- 10 kids a week -- and drove around from school to school. The graduation rate was less than 10 percent; it went up to 90 percent. That's just one thing. I left Liberty University as a vice president to come to New York to run a soup kitchen in Times Square -- in the old Times Square. These guys -- these athletes are champions -- many of them are champions. They're not just physical -- it's a whole emotional thing.

I think what we need to do is -- is, Hines, we need to be engaging them in positive things that we can do going forward. I'm not just talking about feel-good stuff, I'm talking about stuff to get engaged. And have these folks have the wealthy folks help fund these things that we're doing. I don't believe that government can do this.

COOPER: Let me -- I just want to introduce everybody to Joey Odoms, he was a combat veteran, a former member of Maryland's National Guard. And, up until yesterday, the singer of the national anthem for the Baltimore Ravens. Joey announced yesterday, after three years of singing "The Star-Spangled Banner," that he was resigning.

First of all, thank you for your service. Why did you decide to do that?

ODOMS: I felt like not all of me was welcomed. The combat veteran was welcomed, the former 9-1-1 operator was welcomed, the person who sang the national anthem was welcomed. But the veteran who also saw that there was a reason for these players to be kneeling was not welcome. So I made this decision, you know, that that was not the place for me to be.

WARD: I think the league is in a unique position because we don't know how to deal with it. I mean, with the remarks of Trump, coming out on Friday night, I look at -- we talk about unity in the NFL, right? And so it seems like every NFL team was trying to figure out how to do it the right way. And they totally just bombed it, right? And the leader of our league, Roger Goodell, he was nowhere to be found.

So, through Sunday, teams were trying to figure out, "What's the best way to do -- how do we do this after his remarks?" You saw the Pittsburgh Steelers, did you see how we did it? We totally dropped the ball. Tennessee and Seattle, they didn't want to be a part of it either way. They stayed in the locker room. Other teams stayed out.

And then finally, on Monday night -- it kills me to say this, hurts me to say this -- the Dallas Cowboys, I think, came close to getting it right. You know? Jerry Jones, the owner, kneeled down with his players to show support for the players that was going through the protest. But at the same time, those same players stood for the national anthem.

COOPER: Spike, I'm wondering what you thought of that.

LEE: Yeah, here's the thing.

(LAUGHTER)

WARD: Maybe you need to be the commissioner. Because I don't...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: Oh no, I've got enough hatred already. Here's the thing. I was not buying that stuff, that show with the owners kneeling with the players with their arms locked up. I wasn't buying it because they're forgetting why this whole thing has happened. If they want to stop it, if they want to unite with the players, Colin Kaepernick should have a job in the NFL.

(APPLAUSE)

It's hypocritical for them to say, "We're all united," but we're forgetting the reason why this whole thing started.

(UNKNOWN): But do you think it's a -- do you think it's a black ball (ph) situation?

LEE: Yes.

(UNKNOWN): One hundred percent? Because of...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: Because -- because people do not like what he does, what he did.

WARD: But now the whole league is doing it.

BOYER: I think it's a business -- I think it's a business decision. I think -- I believe that if you owned a business, right? And you had the most qualified employee...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: Right. BOYER: ... coming in, which he is, he's very qualified.

LEE: Right.

FAULKNER: He should -- you know.

LEE: Do you -- can I say (ph), real quick, not to mess up your flow. There's 32 teams in the league. Are there any teams where he could be the starting quarterback right now?

BOYER: OK. Yes, yes.

LEE: How many?

BOYER: Yes. But that's...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: How many?

BOYER: ... not my point. My point is, if you could hire that person and -- but at the same you had that fear, that worry, you may lose a large amount of your clientele, your client base...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: All right. I've got an answer for you. I've got an answer for you. I got an answer for you. Branch Ricky. Branch Ricky made the decision, "We're going to hire Jackie Robinson." Nobody else wanted him. That was the (ph) decision. The Brooklyn (inaudible)...

(CROSSTALK)

JENKINS: Jackie Robinson's a Hall of Fame baseball player, what are you talking about?

LEE: He wasn't Hall of -- he wasn't a Hall of Fame player before Branch Ricky hired him.

JENKINS: He did, but Jackie Robinson was...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: That was -- he was the first...

(CROSSTALK)

JENKINS: ... he was one of the most...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: He was the first -- he was the first black person in Major League Baseball.

JENKINS: (Inaudible).

WARD: Yeah, but you can't go blaming (ph) him for Colin Kaepernick.

(LAUGHTER)

LEE: No. I'm giving you an example of where somebody made the decision...

(CROSSTALK)

(UNKNOWN): OK, somebody made the...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: No, no. Branch Ricky made the decision, (inaudible) said, "I'm going to hire -- no matter what anybody else says, I'm hiring Jackie Robinson.

WARD: OK, so it was a...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: That was a business decision. That was a business decision.

WARD: ... business decision.

LEE: And...

(CROSSTALK)

WARD: Guess what, they made lots of money from it. It was risky at first but here's the thing. Here's the thing. Where do we go from here?

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: Which (inaudible) where is Ricky today? That's the question.

(CROSSTALK)

WARD: Where, where...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: Which of (ph) the...

(CROSSTALK)

WARD: ... do we go from here?

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: ... owners is going to be the Branch Ricky and give Colin Kaepernick a job?

COOPER: I wonder -- I just introduced...

JENKINS: Colin Kaepernick has got a job. LEE: Where?

(APPLAUSE)

JENKINS: He is a leader of a movement. He made a decision to put his career on the line. I salute Colin Kaepernick...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: But (inaudible) why can't he go (ph) out (ph) and play, though (ph)?

(CROSSTALK)

JENKINS: Playing football is not the only thing in life.

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: Why can't he go out and play?

COOPER: All right.

LEE: Why can't he do that and play?

JENKINS: Hey, put him in the movies. Make a movie about him.

LEE: He's a football player.

JENKINS: Make (ph) him (ph) do that.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Uh-oh.

LEE: No, that's okie-doke (ph). No.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: All right. I want to -- I want to introduce -- I want everybody to meet Brandon Rumbaugh. Brandon's a Marine who did combat tours, both Iraq and Afghanistan. Corporal Rumbaugh survived an IUD attack in Afghanistan, he lost both of his legs.

Brandon. Obviously, thank you for your service and thank you very much for being here.

RUMBAUGH: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: I think you have a -- I think you have a question for Nate (ph).

RUMBAUGH: Yeah. Yeah. So, unity. We've used that word a lot tonight. And I think that's something that I've learned in both my tours overseas. But what I want to say is, you know, I'd honorably stand next to, you know, all of my fellow Americans during the anthem, that's what I believe and that's what I do. But after the fact, I would stand next to anybody that wants to peacefully protest for the racial injustice anyone is experiencing.

My question is simple. Protesting the national anthem is adding fuel to a fire that was created by a few hateful people who think they're superior because of their white skin color or their job title. How can we, as a country, use another platform to achieve our goals but not disrespect something so many people, including myself, hold so dear?

(UNKNOWN): That's tough.

(UNKNOWN): Good question.

BOYER: Action, man. A hundred percent, you know? And that's where we're at now. I mean, everybody's very aware. We're sitting in this room, we're talking about this. I'm not saying protesting should stop now, but I'm saying we're very aware. And there is a lot going on, there's a lot of players doing stuff. But it's not -- it's not grown yet. And I think it needs to, immediately.

And I think, speaking of Colin, I love the guy, man. I sat down with him -- where's he at, you know? We've got to -- he should be sitting in this room with us and talking about this, in my opinion. You know?

LEE: He's on the low.

BOYER: Yeah, he's on the low.

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: Low.

BOYER: But I think -- but I think part of that is, you know, is he going to be willing to lay down his arms a little bit and say, you know, police chiefs and whoever, people in high places -- high, high places -- you know. Is he going to be -- what do you -- would he be able to sit in a room with Donald Trump and have a conversation? That would change a lot in this country, if that happened somehow. I don't see it happening, but I would love -- I would love, more than anything, to see that.

LEE: Donald? Donald? The man called his mother a son of a bitch.

(LAUGHTER)

He was -- he was...

(CROSSTALK)

BOYER: I understand that, I understand that...

(CROSSTALK) WARD: But now, but now I think it's because of...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: He called his mother a son of a bitch.

WARD: But now it's personal.

LEE: Yeah.

WARD: It's not even about the protest. It's -- everyone's hating Donald Trump.

COOPER: Do you think it's now becoming about the president...

WARD: Yes.

COOPER: ... not the original issue?

WARD: Exactly.

COOPER: I want everybody to meet Tamishia Moats, she's the wife of former NFL player Ryan Moats. After an incident with law enforcement, back in 2008, she and her husband worked with police to try to bring about positive change in their community. Tamishia, you have a question for Hines?

MOATS: Yes, I do. So, basically, our situation with the police happened eight years ago. My husband and I -- at that time, he was playing and we decided to take a different approach. Instead of going, you know, public, we decided to go behind the veil (ph). We decided to work with the local police group. We even reached out, multiple times, to the officer who was involved in our case. However, the door has constantly been slammed in our face.

So at this point we're eight years later, it's gotten a lot worse, and I think that this protest is much-needed because, unlike Colin Kaepernick, we tried to take the higher road. And nothing has happened. It's gotten a lot worse. So, my question to you guys -- and respectfully, Reverend, I heard you say, "Go, work with the groups directly," that's not working.

It's getting worse in America. Everyone's so divided, we have to come up with a solution and I do believe that government has to be involved. So, I would like to know what is a proper next step and one that's going to come up with a resolution and not just continue to divide the country even further.

(UNKNOWN): Well, it...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: That was to Hines, actually.

(UNKNOWN): OK. HINES: Well, I mean, I look at it as, the NFL has a unique platform.

I mean, we own a network. I would love to see guys on a Tuesday, on our off day, let's sit down and do a two-hour special and talk about, dialogue of all the things that's happened.

Bring a police chief on board to sit there and talk and put it out there so all you guys can view it. If a situation's happened to you that you can kind of relate to, then, well, we're talking about it. I think dialogue solves everything.

COOPER: But don't people, when people speak out who are on -- I mean, I don't watch sports channels.

(LAUGHTER)

But when you put -- from what I've read...

(CROSSTALK)

(UNKNOWN): No (ph) ESPN?

COOPER: When people -- there's, like, four ESPNs. I turn by them really quickly...

(LAUGHTER)

But what -- it seems like sometimes, when people speak out about politics in the sports world, they get criticized as, "Wait a minute, you're a sportsperson, you're not supposed to be talking about it. I don't want, I'm not tuning in to..."

(CROSSTALK)

HINES WARD, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Well, I think she -- and your husband can speak by what happened. You know, the situation, what happened. And if that were to arise with someone else, at least they know somebody who's been through their situation. I think understanding and not knowing, I think that's kind of where we're behind. We're putting it out in the forefront and discussing the issue of what happened with you and your husband, with this police officer I think helps.

REV. MICHEL FAULKNER, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Let me bring up something, you remember when -- the Vietnam vets came back, people were booing them, people were even spitting on them and everything. I'm old enough to remember that time.

And then it was like after 2001 or something, I guess we went to Afghanistan. I'm in airports and I'm seeing, you know, armed troops coming to the airport, people stop, they part, and they clap. I mean, they're clapping. They're cheering. Everybody's thanking them for their service.

That -- and that's unifying. I mean, everywhere you were, people would stop. If they see somebody in uniform, they would stop. They would cheer. Thank you for your service. I saw this go on and I said, wow. Now, this was spontaneous American

stuff. Just -- it went viral. Couldn't we as, you know, as Americans have a viral conversation, a viral dialogue about what it means to be on the same -- you know, this racial inequality that we face, these racial tensions that we face?

COOPER: Let's take a quick break as we think about that. We're going to take more questions from the audience. Michael Bennett and Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Welcome back.

We've already heard some remarkable voices in tonight's 360 town hall, "Patriotism, The Players and The President". We're about to hear more.

Before we do, I want to mention Torrey Smith of the Philadelphia Eagles who certainly paid a price for speaking out, he was a member of the 49ers when Colin Kaepernick first took a knee. He's tweeted about what he sees as the divisiveness in the president. He's also said patriotism goes beyond a flag and an anthem. Someone tweeted this to Smith, a video of him burning his jersey.

Joining us are Michael Bennett and Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks.

Michael, when you see things like Torrey Smith's jersey being burned by a fan or loud boos when the crowd, you know, when the Dallas Cowboys decided to kneel before the game, I'm wondering what goes through your mind because there are many fans who feel that you and others are doing is disrespectful.

MICHAEL BENNETT, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS DEFENSIVE END: I think I see it as the truth for what people don't really want to face if realities of what's going on in America, the realities of what we're talking about. We're talking about police brutality. We're talking about Colin Kaepernick. We're talking about Flint, Michigan. We're talking about all of these different types of issues that people don't want to hear in sports.

And it just goes to show that people don't want to be vulnerable nor do they want to be uncomfortable. They want to get away from it when they come to sports. But the harsh reality is that we're black men. When we live the facilities, no matter what, that will never change. So, people have to listen to what we're talking about, and this is just the truth of what we do right now.

COOPER: Doug, when you see that kind of reaction, you hear the president say that things better change in the NFL or the business is going to hell, it's not a free speech issue. What do you want the president or others to understand about what you're doing? DOUG BALDWIN, SEATTLE SEAHWAKS WIDE RECEIVER: Yes, I mean, it's very

clear to me that the players that were exercising our First Amendment right, you know?

I got the opportunity to hear Mr. and Mrs. Bonacasa speak. And I want to say directly to you that nobody appreciates and respects your son's sacrifice more than us. You know, your son sacrificed and the sacrifices of many in our country allow us to exercise our First Amendment right and I think that's vitally important here. I think that's what we've trying to get across, is that there's a message that we want to share with the world, and we think there's no better opportunity than platform that we have because that's the biggest platform that we have because that's the biggest platform that we have.

And so, you know, I want that to be clear. You know, it's not a disrespect. We're honoring those who have sacrificed their lives in order for us to use your First Amendment right.

COOPER: Michael, I know you had a run-in with police in Las Vegas last month. I'm wondering, did something about that incident impact your views on speaking out or demonstrating?

BENNETT: No. It didn't impact by views, what impacted by views was the mass incarceration of African-Americans. Thirty-five percent of the people in jail are African-American. Police brutality, that's what influences me. I think Colin Kaepernick influenced me to keep pushing forward.

And those are the issues that we're talking about. We're not talking about the flag. We're not talking about the military. Even after wars, after World War II, African-American men came back to feel subhuman when they came back to society. They didn't have rights. They had to face Jim Crow, you know, and still, they couldn't vote after they did Vietnam.

So, it's not about the flag. It's still about the rights that people want, the equality that we see is fit for every single human. I don't feel like I should have a different conversation with my kids than a white American should have with their kids. I should be able to feel safe if my daughter or son goes out in the streets and feel like they're going to come home.

And when I get pulled over by the police, I shouldn't feel like I'm going to die. I should feel that I'm interacting with law enforcement and they respect me as human being.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Doug, I'm wondering, you know, a lot of people tonight have been asking the question or trying to figure, the answer to the question of, where does this go? How does this go from a protest on the field to actual change? I -- you know, I don't expect you to have an answer, anybody to have a particular answer, but I'm wondering what your thoughts are on that and where the protests go? Does it continue, do you think? BALDWIN: Well, first and foremost, I want to go back to something

that the reverend said earlier. He said that the Boston tea party got this kicked off. I'm sorry, sir. You're incorrect. It was the Boston massacre that happened three years prior to that when nine armed British police officers armed -- police officers gunned down some unarmed Americans. That's where this got kicked off.

And I think that's ironic that we're talking about this topic tonight. You asked me, Hines Ward, you want to see players doing something on Tuesday. I would invite you to come to Seattle and see what we have done, every Tuesday on our off day, last year, since this conversation has been talked about.

You asked me, Anderson Cooper, what can be done? What's the next steps? Well, we've been saying what the next steps are for a very long time. For me and for my teammates, I don't speak for all of us, but for our message we've been trying to get across, number one, we want more resources for our law enforcement so that they can experience better de-escalation tactics, better policies, better protocol so that issues and situations like Tamir Rice don't happen.

I was a young man, once 12 years old, playing around in my neighborhood, playing cops and robbers, and I had toy guns, and I can only imagine what it would be like if I had a friend that got shot and killed in those situations.

Number two, I know that the rebuttal is going to be about you should handle yourself accordingly when you interact with law enforcement. Let's put the DARE program back in schools. Let's start funding more education programs. Let's start putting more resources in our public school system in general.

So, you want to know what's the next steps. That's what we're asking for and we've been saying that since day one.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Go ahead, Michael.

BENNETT: Yes. I want to say --

COOPER: I'm sorry. Michael, I was saying something to the reverend. Michael, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I wanted to say --

COOPER: I'm talking to Michael, sorry. Go ahead, Michael.

BENNETT: Sorry. And, you know, I would like to challenge every American that's watching this show to treat people better. That's really what it's about. It's about treating people like human beings. That's the first step.

The first step is to recognize and see somebody as an equal being when you recognize them. It's no way that a person, a woman should feel less human than a man. There's no way that a black person should feel less human than a white man. Everybody should be seen equal. Until that happens it's the truth and reality of what we want and less about the flag, then there's never going to be a change.

And the change starts with our heart. This is not a violent protest. This is a peaceful protest. We're challenging people spiritually, not physically, spiritually to change the way -- change the --

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin, guys, thank you so much for being with us. I appreciate it.

Back now with the panel and also, we're going to have more questions from the audience. I just wanted your reaction -- Hines.

WARD: When you're talking about change, I think change is taught in the homes. It starts with the parents, you know? My mom always taught me to treat people, treat others like you want to be treated. You know, if you do that in life then good things are going to happen.

Sometimes I think for a lot of these guys that come in, they grow up in different situations, different environments or whatever. I understand. I got pulled over a couple times. I had a nice car or whatever.

But also, I got pulled over my black cops. I had a friend who got shot by a black cop. You know, so to me in our community, I think we have to do more.

I heard Baldwin saying, it's great what they do on Tuesday. I think as a league, if we're trying to help everyone in this process, I think, yes, it's not just Seattle Seahawks. I think everyone needs to have a platform.

SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: Thirty-two teams, right?

WARD: All 32 teams get on something on Tuesdays and talk about social equality.

COOPER: I wonder, when you talked about police. I want to bring in Edwin Raymond. He's a sergeant in the New York Police Department. Sergeant Raymond supports Colin Kaepernick and others like him in the NFL. He says he's seen issues between law enforcement and minority communities from the inside. And I think he has a question.

Welcome. Thank you for your service.

SGT. EDWIN RAYMOND, NYPD: Thank you.

All right. Based on the dialogue this evening, you know, and it seems as if most people understand that racial inequalities in the U.S. is not an antiquated issue, but there is a significant portion of this population that they seem to think that this is something that was solved during the civil rights movement. So what can we do to get those people to understand that it's still a lot more work to do? Because if we're not having this conversation from that platform, it's almost pointless. How do we get this fact to be universally accepted?

COOPER: Spike? That's a tough question.

LEE: That's a tough one. I think I go with my brothers from the Seattle Supersonics. We have to understand that --

WARD: Seahawks.

LEE: Excuse me.

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: The Seahawks. I'm still bad about Pete Carroll. Call him that (INAUDIBLE)

We have to understand each other's humanity. I think that's what they were talking about. We have this superiority thing has got us jacked up.

And I also think that what Donald Trump has done, you want to say his name, he's given a lot of these crazy people the green light who were under the surface and now coming out full-blown with their hate.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: But Nate, one of the things you said about serving overseas, you know, you were serving in other cultures. You're there to help the people of Afghanistan, the Afghan government. You may not understand or even like a lot of the stuff you see, but you have to put yourself in their shoes. I think that's such an important thing even here at home to walk in someone else's shoes.

NATE BOYER, FORMER U.S. ARMY GREEN BERET: Absolutely. That's something we just really struggle with too as a country. We don't even want to listen. We don't even want to empathize with the other side.

And it's always about sides. That's the biggest issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

BOYER: You know what I mean? It's like, you've got to be -- you've got to be on this team or that team or nobody likes you. You sit in the radical middle and you're a freaking outlier which doesn't make any sense.

COOPER: I got a question (INAUDIBLE)

Michi Marshall is here. She's the wife of New York Giants wide receiver, Brandon Marshall. Her grandfather served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Michi has a question for Michael.

Welcome.

MICHI MARSHALL, WIFE OF NFL WIDE RECEIVER BRANDON MARSHALL: Hi. Thank you for having me.

My question is, NFL athletes as well as other professional athletes are not necessarily seen as individuals. They are representations of teams and organizations, but so many of them, some that you heard today and a lot that you haven't, the majority do outstanding things in the community for positive change. So, now, players are using their platform that's visible when in the past you don't see what they do.

Why is it -- it's similar to what breast cancer awareness for the NFL. We use the NFL platform in order to highlight something that is very important. Why is it a problem when NFL athletes or other athletes alike use their platform about something that really is an important issue to them and their communities? Why is it -- this a problem?

COOPER: Reverend?

(APPLAUSE)

FAULKNER: Yes. I think it's not a problem. In fact, I encourage it. I just don't want them to use the flag.

I mean, because in my opinion, in my humble opinion, the flag is somewhat sacred because it's only because of that flag that I will have the right to protest, the right to be equal and the right to hold people accountable and say you can't treat people this way. I don't care what their race, I don't care what their color, I don't care what their sexual orientation. In this country, you are equal by the law.

So, treating -- so having this -- this issue raised this way, but to me, I'm just saying the flag is what gives -- and the Constitution and our ideals, we're not perfect. We're Americans. We're having this conversation now. And I think that's vitally important and I agree that some of the athletes are doing great stuff.

COOPER: We're tight on time.

Before we go, I want to talk to Rory Fanning, who's on the audience. He's a former Army Ranger. He served in the same unit as Pat Tillman. As you know, Tillman, of course, left the NFL after 9/11 to serve in the Army. He was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.

Just this week, President Trump retweeted this about Tillman. He said, quote: NFL player Pat Tillman joined U.S. Army 2002. He was killed in action 2004. He fought for our country, freedom. #standforouranthem, #boycottNFL.

Tillman's widow released a statement after that tweet, saying, quote: Pat's service, along with that of every woman's service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us.

This isn't the first time people have invoked Tillman's legacy around issues of patriotism.

Rory, you knew Pat Tillman, I'm wondering what you'd think he'd make of all this. RORY FANNING, FORMER U.S. ARMY RANGER, SERVED WITH PAT TILLMAN: Well,

after two tours in Afghanistan, I became one of the first Army Rangers to become a war resister. I realized that we were never going to win the war in Afghanistan and that we're making the world a far more dangerous place.

In doing so, the entire battalion turned their back on me and for six months I had to wash dishes, clean -- absorb the ridicule of the chain of command. There are two people that stood by me that entire six months. It was Pat Tillman and his brother Kevin.

They respected people who stood up for what they believed in. I think they would have a lot more in common with people like Michael Bennett and Colin Kaepernick than they do the people who stand on the sidelines and jeer and try to repress their dissent.

So, you know, I would be shocked if Pat Tillman wasn't out there taking a knee with these soldiers -- I mean, with these players because Pat cared about people who were exploited, people who were oppressed. He didn't care so much about symbols.

And so, I would definitely think Pat would err on the side of Colin Kaepernick --

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Yes?

BOYER: I never met Pat and he inspired me quite a bit. I mean, that's one of the reasons I followed a dream to go play football when I was older after I served. But I did serve with some people that knew him. And I would think, personally, or potentially that maybe more someone like Chris Long. Chris -- he stands for the anthem, stands for the flag.

But he's one of those guys, you know, he's embracing the guys that are taking a knee and just saying, hey, look, I'll always stand because of what it means to me and, you know, family and service and all that stuff. But, you know, I'm listening. I'm listening. I'm here.

And we're brothers, too, you know what I mean? We might have different skin color, different backgrounds, wearing the same uniform. This is something I want to see fixed too. So --

WARD: That's what the league is trying to do. They're trying to figure out what's the best way to go about doing it because there isn't right and wrong way. We're just trying -- we don't want to offend both parties. In some ways it's got to be a common ground so we both can be respectful of each other, but still the dialogue to get change and get things moving in the right direction.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody for taking part of this discussion. I want to thank you for watching this town hall.

We'll go now to Don Lemon and "CNN TONIGHT".

(APPLAUSE)