Those comments were described by the Broncos’ Brandon Marshall as “disgusting,” while the Seahawks’ Doug Baldwin called Trump an “idiot.” Both players criticized the president for creating the impression that differing viewpoints are not to be tolerated.
The new policy mandates that players who are on the sidelines during the anthem be standing, but it allows players the option of remaining in the locker room while the song is performed. Asked about it by Brian Kilmeade of “Fox and Friends,” Trump said, “I don’t think people should be staying in 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,” Trump added. “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, and the NFL owners did the right thing, if that’s what they’ve done.”
“He’s an idiot. Plain and simple,” Baldwin said. “Listen, I respect the man because he’s a human being, first and foremost. But he’s just being more divisive, which is not surprising. It is what it is.
“For him to say that anybody 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,” the two time Pro Bowl wide receiver continued. “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.”
“I say ‘disgusting’ because of our First Amendment rights,” Marshall explained to reporters at Denver’s practice facility, where the linebacker is preparing for his seventh NFL season. “We have freedom of speech, right? Freedom to protest? Because somebody decides to protest something, now they have to be kicked out of the country? That’s not how things should work, in my opinion.”
Marshall was a college teammate at Nevada of Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who was the first to sit, and then kneel, during the anthem before games in 2016 and inspired other football players and athletes in other sports to follow his example. Kaepernick said he was doing so to protest racial injustice, particularly police brutality against black men, and other NFL players have emulated his activist approach, including Baldwin, who has met with police and other government officials in Washington state to help enact reforms aimed at limiting the use of deadly force.
On Wednesday, after the NFL announced its anthem policy, which includes the possibilities of fines from the league for personnel who “do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” Baldwin called it “a PR move.”
“I don’t think they ever did care about the [social] initiatives, what the players care about,” Baldwin said. “It’s just about their bottom line.”
“The NFL cares about one thing, and that’s the NFL,” he added. “That’s the bottom line.”
One of Baldwin’s teammates, linebacker K.J. Wright, suggested Wednesday that if the league was intent on demanding that players stand for the anthem or remain in the locker room, perhaps entire squads would choose the latter option. “If they want to make such a big deal out of it, maybe guys as a team should just stay in the locker room,” Wright said. “Do it how they did, I believe, like 10 years ago, 15 years ago, [when] players didn’t even come out for the anthem.”
“No telling how many guys are going to be in the locker room [for the anthem]. It is probably going to be a lot,” the Broncos’ Chris Harris said Thursday. Harris indicated that he would “probably” be on the field for the anthem, because that would help him maintain his pregame routine, and he said of the policy, “It’s not going to change what we do off the field, in the community.”
Another player who sharply condemned the policy after it was announced was the Eagles’ Chris Long, who said Wednesday on Twitter: “This is fear of a diminished bottom line. It’s also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation.”
“This is not patriotism,” Long added. “Don’t get it confused. These owners don’t love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it.”
On Thursday, Long tweeted out Trump’s comments, and he wryly joked that the NFL was set to again amend its “new amended rule.”
“We’re supposed to have a conversation about things, talk about things, work things through,” Marshall, who knelt during the anthem before eight games in 2016 and before one game last season, said of Trump’s remarks. “Everybody is not going to agree on things. Everybody is not going to have the same opinion on things.
“So just because somebody disagrees or has an issue with something that’s going on in this country, it doesn’t mean that they should pack up and leave. That’s absurd, in my opinion.”