Anderson Cooper hosts a #CNNTownHall on the NFL protests tonight at 9 o’clock ET with filmmaker Spike Lee, retired player Hines Ward and current players Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin and Malcolm Jenkins.
Three days after NFL players locked arms to protest President Trump’s criticisms of those who kneel during the National Anthem, the topic remained on the minds of many around the league.
Players and coaches took podiums during the NFL’s weekly media day to field questions about the protests and whether they’ll demonstrate again this weekend. Trump, meanwhile, continued to hammer the league for its handling of the protests.
“The NFL is in a very bad box. You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, our flag, our country. And in my opinion, the NFL has to change or you know what’s going to happen. In my opinion, their business is going to go to hell,” Trump said outside the White House.
Here is what some players and coaches had to say Wednesday:
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin
“If an American can’t air their grievances to the republic for which it stands, then where can they air their grievances? And when you have the President of our country basically saying, ‘I don’t want to hear your protest, I don’t want to hear your grievances,’ then I think that’s where we have the challenge.”
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman
“Our President gets into the ‘we’ and ‘them’ kind of conversations and, you know, sometimes you wonder, who’s ‘we’ and who’s ‘them’?”
Sherman added, “I think when you’re the President of the United States and you’re talking about fellow Americans, you always have to say ‘we’ … or you become divisive.”
Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy
The coach said he would stand with his players in locked arms ahead of the Packers’ “Thursday Night Football” showdown against division rival the Chicago Bears.
“I was proud of the players. …. They’ve put a lot of time and energy and thought into it. They’ve met. They’ve had a chance to discuss, each and every guy, to express his opinions. I think, like anything in life, you’re never going to have everybody feel 100% the same way, but it’s just something we talk about a lot as a football team. I always want to make sure that the why – why are we doing this – is explained. And you want them to have the opportunity to disagree… And I think this is an example of that. So the process that they’ve gone through, I’m proud of them. Their approach is one of a positive nature, and that’s definitely the preference. So, locking arms and honoring the flag I think is a very good thing.”
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees
“Certainly, I respect the cause and I think what you saw last weekend was a direct result of the President’s comments. Unfortunately, he put all black and minority athletes into a corner and forced them to take action… I don’t blame the guys for feeling like they needed to do something as a reaction to that.
“We want to find something that we can do together that shows unity and not division … how can we do that in a respectful manner?”
New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan
“It was like, ‘Hey, you were sitting down for the National Anthem.’ Of course I was, of course I’m in complete solidarity with the entire movement. But as I’m sitting my hand is on my heart, as I’m sitting my eyes are searching for the flag, as I’m sitting I’m singing as I have done every time for as long as I remember. At the end of the National Anthem I’m still kissing the flag … that being said, it all starts with wanting to bring to light everything we have to go through.”
Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy
“See the type of words, things (Trump’s) saying about us, I mean, it just got to me. It really did. Every week will be different. We talk about being together as a country, so it’s the same thing with this team, we want to be together. And it’s ok to express your feelings a different way, but I don’t want to make it where every week we’re addressing this, every practice we’re addressing this, taking away from our job.”
Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor
“We’ve got to keep talking about it. One thing we’re going to do here is continue to support the players. Like I said last week, after the game, we believe in love and equality so if guys want to keep doing that then we’re going to support them, but we can’t let that take away from our focus from this week’s game. … Last week was kind of a special moment because the President had said something two days before a game. But like I said, we can’t let that take away from our focus this week on the football game.”
Baltimore Ravens safety Eric Weddle
“A lot of guys on this team were affected a great deal with what our President said, emotionally. And for a guy on this team that loves my teammates, it was hard to see. I was affected, but a lot of guys were … it wasn’t a good sight to see.”
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco
“Nobody’s trying to pick sides. We’re trying to stand by each other as brothers. … Obviously there’s a big time African-American influence in the NFL and those guys want to show support for their communities. And that doesn’t mean they’re picking sides. It just means they’re showing support for their communities, just like any of us would, and our message is to stand by everybody on the team in unity and respect each other.”
Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson
“We’ve talked about it as a team. We love each other in that locker room. We support each other in that locker room. That’s a few days from now. Right now we’re focused on the Steelers, as we should be, preparing for them. And when that time comes, just know that we always support each other with whatever we do. “
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh
“I understand that there are injustices in our country and across the world. Our players understand that as well, but it’s really important to make it clear that our players have great respect and great appreciation for the military, for the police, for the first responders that give so much to all of us every single day.”