With the NFL season approaching, the firestorm issue has been Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem and subsequent explanation that he was protesting years of racial oppression in this country.
I sat down with some NFL legends-turned-media mouths at CBS’s NFL Media Luncheon on Tuesday and got their royal opinion about the situation that has put the NFL in the center of a heated race debate.
Bill Cowher, Former Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach and Super Bowl XL Champ
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“The football field is a time for us to put all of that stuff aside and show respect for the flag and for our country. It goes way beyond one element . That's a very shallow way of looking at it.”
“No. 1... when you walk in that door (to the NFL locker room) there’s an understanding that we all come from different social economic upbringings. We are all at different phases of our lives. You have 21-year-old guys, you’ve got 32-year-old guys with families...three or four kids. The bottom line is that when we come in here we are all united with one goal and united in purpose. You may not always agree with people’s choices, but you have to at least respect them. I don’t agree with what he did. He had the platform. He used it. That’s fine.”
“But at the same time (as a coach) I look at it and wonder was his focus on what his opinions are? Or is his focus on football? Here’s a guy, to me, that was benched last year. Doesn’t show up in the offseason for any OTA’s. You’ve got a new coach and a new system and now I would think his focus would be on trying to learn that new system and becoming an integral part of this team.”
“My only question I would have with him is what’s his real commitment? Is (Kaepernick) committed to football? Or maybe he doesn’t want to be there. You can talk all you want about social issues. I don’t disagree with what he says, but I disagree with how he went about showing it.”
Two-Time Super Bowl QB and Super Bowl XXI MVP Phil Simms:
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“You do what you do to make it in this country, but Colin Kaepernick had to be thinking about this and I presume that he knew the fallback. And if he didn’t, what was he thinking of in this day and age? He knows it would have resulted in this. So if he was trying to get a message out and get somebody to listen and pay attention, then I don’t know if it will work. My opinion is, it won’t. It’s not the way to go about it but I’m not going to sit here and condemn the man for doing something he truly believed in.”
Fourteen-time Pro Bowl Tight End Tony Gonzalez:
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“If that's in your heart and that's something you’re passionate about, then Kaepernick has every right as an American to do that. Do I agree with it ? Absolutely not, it’s ridiculous. But that’s his political view and he understands. I looked at his comments after, when he was answering questions and he understood the polarization it was going to cause with everybody, not just football fans.
“And I commend him a little bit because it takes guts to do that, but for me, you put your toe in the water and I want to see some follow up now. I hope he gets involved with the community and this great flag that has helped him make so much money. Please donate some of that to the cause and making things better. Otherwise, it’s a stunt to me. So we will wait and see what happens from here on out.”
Boomer Esiason, Former NFL QB and Co-Star of the Boomer and Carton Morning Show:
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“I’ll be honest with you like I have been honest with everyone else. I find his actions on the field of play disgraceful and deplorable. I can’t say it in any stronger way than I feel in my heart. Guys like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony...if they want to make a statement, they take it to the ESPYs or another high profile platform. When I watched LeBron talk to 10,000 people in Akron and talking about social change and everything, I stood up and cheered because of the way he was saying it, where he was saying it and how he was saying it. That’s what we need. We don’t need to be using the football field and desecrating the flag with all that it stands for to make our point.
That’s why it’s unfortunate, but I believe he’s going to be cut. This is part of the reason why...as well as his play on the field. Then again, I don't think anybody will pick him up because I know the NFL and I know the coaches and I know the owners. They don’t want distractions. And I think the one coach throughout all the NFL this week that said the most without saying anything, was Bill Belichick, 'It’s not my player. All I worry about is my next team that I have to worry about here.' And if everybody felt that way, that probably means he’s not going to get a job once he leaves the 49ers."