Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said Monday that his team will continue to “stand up and give respect” during the national anthem, citing the team’s close relationship with the military and its recent visit to Joint Base Andrews.
Gruden said he hadn’t yet discussed Colin Kaepernick’s controversial anthem protest with his team, but that he might bring it up at a scheduled meeting on Tuesday. The 49ers quarterback has remained seated during the anthem this summer “to bring awareness and make people realize what’s really going on in this country,” he said, citing a variety of issues including police brutality and a lack of opportunities for some Americans. He has said he will continue to sit during the anthem as a means of standing “with the people that are being oppressed.”
Gruden said on Monday that the Redskins “haven’t had that issue here,” and then talked about the team’s connection with the military, which has become more prominent in recent years.
The Redskins have “a ton of respect for what goes on for our country with those people,” Gruden said. “And for three minutes, for us to take our helmet off and stand up and give respect is how we treat it here with the Redskins.”
Players said the issue has not been widely discussed in the locker room, and some were only passingly familiar with Kaepernick’s stance. At least one player who disagreed with Kaepernick’s decision didn’t want to comment on the matter, and others spoke carefully when asked about the issue.
That’s the way that he wants to bring attention to the things that’s been going on in America,” said lineman Chris Baker, who often deals with social issues on his social media accounts. “Everybody has their own way of bringing attention to a certain subject, and if that’s the way he chooses to do it, then that’s his decision.”
Kaepernick told reporters that his activism will extend beyond this anthem protest, and that he has other plans in the works. That would be welcome news to at least some Redskins, who said they hoped Kaepernick’s interest in social issues goes beyond protesting the anthem.
“I just feel like if he’s going to do that, then be a legit activist. From here on out, you’ve got to be all about it,” said veteran defensive back Will Blackmon. “He has a platform to have a strong opinion, just as long as he’s genuine about it.”
First-year Redskins tight end Vernon Davis, who played with Kaepernick in San Francisco, said he didn’t recall the quarterback talking about civil rights issues or social justice during their time as teammates. Davis said he’s been concentrating on his playbook and his football game in recent days rather than stories out of his former locker room, and he said the issue was “not my area of expertise.” “I just try to do the right thing, whatever the right thing is,” Davis said. “The right thing for me could be different compared to someone else. … I just try to stay in my own lane, control what I can control, do the right thing, keep God first and be the best that I can be on a daily basis.”
The Redskins, as it turns out, have more opportunities to express their patriotism than some other NFL players. The team last season started playing “God Bless America” at the two-minute warning of the first half, a practice that has continued this season. Many fans have stood up during this song as well, although some players seemed caught off-guard during last week’s preseason game against the Bills.
Some players said they liked the new tradition, with Baker saying “I go along and get my opera voice on, and I sing along with it.”
Players were aware that Kaepernick’s stance has prompted debate this week, and that athletes supporting political causes can prompt a backlash. That’s why, some said, they weren’t prepared to weigh in without having more information.
“Everyone has their own opinion on why he should or should not do it,” Baker said. “But he has his reasons, and as long as he stands by what he’s protesting, then all power to him.”