SportsPulse: USA TODAY’s Trysta Krick looks at how the political, social and racial divisions in America have manifested themselves in sports, and how it might be the only platform that can bring people together.
USA TODAY Sports
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — While the country is divided over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem as a way to raise awareness to social injustice, a member of the New York Giants has changed his opinion of the movement.
Offensive guard Justin Pugh said Wednesday he initially was offended by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee a year ago, a gesture that has since spread.
This past weekend more than 200 players took a knee or locked arms as a show of solidarity following critical comments and tweets from President Trump. Some players also wore or held T-shirts that read #IMWITHKAP.
“I recognize why guys are doing it. I think locking arms, being there for one another, definitely something that shows support,” Pugh said Wednesday. “I did take offense to (Kaepernick’s actions) originally, I thought about it, I talked about it, but now realizing he’s not trying to disrespect the military, not trying to disrespect the flag of the United States of America he’s trying to raise questions and start a conversation.
“I think that’s something I can definitely get on board with. And be there for these guys in the locker room, be there because we’re a team. I think a lot of people who are outside of this, sitting on home on their couch, they don’t experience at home what a lot of these guys go through and we got to be able to start that conversation. Once the president came out and said some things we have to show unity as the NFL.”
Trump has said a lot of in the past few days. During a speech in Alabama over the weekend, he said NFL players should be fired for taking a knee while the national anthem is being played. He followed that up by tweeting each day this week about players taking a knee.
Then Wednesday morning, he said “the NFL needs to change” or “their business is going to hell.”
“What if every player kneels? The league would cease to exist? Is that what he’s saying? I don’t know,” Pugh said. “That’s something that’s a little above my pay grade. I have no idea. But at the same time, you’ve got to do what you think is right. Every guy in here has his own opinion; that’s what makes America great.”
Pugh took to Twitter last year to explain why he would not take a knee for the national anthem.
“I was against when he (Kaepernick) originally had sat for the national anthem. I guess being a white male I didn’t really understand what was going through his mind, what he was experiencing,” Pugh said. “I tweeted about it, everyone was coming at me, saying, ‘You’re racist, you’re this you’re that.’ I guess it was more me not knowing what was going on.”
Sullivan reported from East Rutherford.