Redskins cornerback Josh Norman spoke emotionally and at great length about President Trump's criticism of NFL players late Sunday night, long after most of his teammates had left the team's locker room. Norman — who locked arms with Washington owner Daniel Snyder during the national anthem before Sunday's win over the Raiders — said that Trump's comments in Alabama on Friday night had weighed on his mind all weekend, and that "the game became secondary for me," with the response to Trump becoming "first and foremost."
"He's supposed to be the President of America," Norman said of Trump. "He's supposed to be. Calls you out like that as a group? … I'm just telling you right now, this man is not welcome in Washington, D.C. He's not. I hope he's [not] gonna be around when I see him. He's not welcome. I can say that to your face: He's not welcome. You're picking on the wrong people. Sorry man, but it's just being honest. I mean, I respect the [office], I really do, but when it gets to that point, he's talking about 1,800 men. Grown men. They've got families. … That right there needed to be addressed."
Norman waved off a Redskins official at one point, saying he wanted to keep talking, and he went on for more than 20 minutes, beating his chest at one point and saying that he was getting choked up. He spoke about the military connections on both sides of his family, and about his respect for the flag and the country, and said he once dreamed of being in the Air Force. But he said that he was roused to action by Trump's words about his NFL colleagues. In fact, his remarks were almost entirely focused on the President, who at the rally Friday night had asked, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He's fired. He's fired!' " The crowd had responded with cheers.
"It's not about the flag. It's not," Norman said of his response. "It's not about anything like that. It's not about black and white. It's about what we are being faced with right now, and that's being teared down, from in the White House, behind the podium, behind the presidency of the United States of America. That can't go down. … That's just disrespectful. That's appalling, man. If he calls someone an SOB? How you call someone that? That's their right to do, you know what I mean?"
Norman rejected the suggestion that some fans would tell players to stay out of political concerns, and said this was a stand he would continue to take.
"How you stay in your lane when you're called out directly?" he asked. "We ain't got nothing to do with politics. We ain't got nothing to do with the podium. We're chilling. We're doing our jobs. We're doing it professionally, the best way we can. Providing for our family in this country just like everybody else. He has a job to do, I have a job to do. … So why are you gonna come at us? We did nothing to you but do what we thought was right — not what we thought, what we know was right in the Constitution."
"C'mon, man," Norman said. "[There are] bigger problems in this world than worrying about what we do as we take our knee, and what is our Constitutional right. Like, that is sad man. It's a sad day in America when that happens. All this stuff that's going on, and you're worried about a sport? You're worried about us? C'mon man. That's an atrocity. Therefore if you come at us in that way, we can get political very fast. So you have 1,800 men on your back now. Good luck with that."
Norman said he hadn't thought of joining any of the pregame protests before this week, and that he had always given Trump the benefit of the doubt, because "I'm a big forgiver." But he said Trump's comments Friday night changed his stance.
"I had no quarrel with you, I had no quarrel with none of that," Norman said. "But when that came directly at me, that was a personal delivery to my brothers. You pick on them, you pick on me. For taking a knee for what is right?"
Norman later said that the response from the audience at Friday's rally "was more appalling" than Trump's comments, saying he asked himself whether he was still an American, and still in the land of the free and the home of the brave. The entire episode, he said, was "like something out of a horror film."
"It's not about the flag, man," Norman said. "We love it. Like, we want to be here. This is our country. We was born here. We was bred here. This is what we are about. Nobody is spitting on the flag or disrespecting it. We know you gave your life for it. We know that. And our gratitude to your services is deeply endeared. Understand that. But if somebody comes on your front porch and takes a p—, as a man, what are you going to do? Sit there and just watch him pee? Or are you gonna step outside and be like hey, what are you doing sir? You're on private property. You've got to get off, or we'll make you get off."
Norman wasn't certain what the team's next step would be, saying there would be another internal discussion. But he implied that his involvement in political issues would not end this weekend.
"The thing is, I promise you that next time there is voting or anything about it, we will be the first in line for whatever comes up," Norman said. "Because this right here is not acceptable. And I'm kind of getting a little choked up right now because I strongly feel about it because as a man in this country. … "
"We had to do something and take a stand, and our moment was now," Norman said later. "It starts here. Fifty states, this is the capital of the United States of the free world. So it starts here. It starts with us. And we had to do something about it."