It was inevitable that the NFL’s national anthem protests would become a topic of conversation when NBA teams held court with the media on Monday, and the Suns media session was no exception.
Suns players said they hoped President Donald Trump’s remarks about the NFL’s anthem protests would bring more attention to the racism and police brutality that have been at the heart of the movement, and General Manager Ryan McDonough said he ‘generally’ supported the players’ rights to express themselves.
Suns forward Jared Dudley said Monday that despite all the attention focused on NFL player’s protesting during the anthem, very little attention has been paid to the root cause behind the protest.
“We don’t talk about that enough,” Dudley said.
Hundreds of NFL players knelt during the national anthem on Sunday and the most of the Pittsburgh Steelers remained in the team’s locker room during the anthem.
“Trump says a lot of crazy things every week,” Dudley said. “So when it comes to this you saw players taking a stand not so much in defense of Kaepernick, but against Trump.”
Trump was speaking at a rally Friday night in Alabama when he made the following remarks:
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—h off the field right now,” Trump said. “Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”
Suns center Tyson Chandler said it was ‘disheartening’ to hear the U.S. President make those kind of remarks, but he said Trump’s comments could ultimately be positive if they can unify people.
“Those kinds of comments only divide, they don’t bring people together. They’re also insulting. ‘Son of a b—h,’ it doesn’t get any more insulting than that. That wasn’t a shot at just NFL players, that was shot at humanity to be honest,” Chandler said. “But the one thing I see coming from this is I see guys stepping up and coming together from all walks of life.”
McDonough said earlier Monday that he applauds players’ rights to protest during the national anthem.
“I speak for myself not for the organization or players. We certainly applaud their right to speak their minds and have their opinions,” McDonough said.
Trump’s remarks led to an immediate backlash from NFL executives, owners and current-and-former players.
“Unfortunately it’s a very divided time in our country. My opinion is it’s got a little shifted from what Colin Kaepernick did in taking a knee to protest police brutality. It’s gotten a little bigger,” McDonough said on Monday.
Suns players have expressed support for anti-police brutality movements in the past, including several who wore “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts during a pre-game warmup. The “I Can’t Breathe” slogan refers to the death of Staten Island’s Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man who died as a result of a chokehold by New York police during a July 17 2014 arrest attempt.
McDonough referenced the shirts during his remarks on Monday.
“With our players, we agree with players speaking their mind. Generally we support their right to free speech, doing what they want to do,” he said. “A couple of years ago our players wore black lives t-shirt in pre-game warm-up, we supported them and we’ll continue to support them.”
Monday’s discussion in the world of sports was a continuation of the statements, responses and protests that were evident on Sunday.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a Trump supporter, released a statement Sunday morning saying he was “deeply disappointed” by the tone of Trump’s comments. And Jaguars owner Shad Khan locked arms with his players when the national anthem was played prior to an NFL game in London.
Cardinals players have said that they were undecided on whether- or how- they would protest Trump’s remarks before Monday nights game with the Cowboys.
No Cardinals player has taken part in protests by sitting or kneeling during anthem over the past few years but such a protest is “the individual right of an American,” coach Bruce Arians said.
Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner also drew a large response– from critics and supporters- after he told an NFL Network audience on Sunday morning that he found Trump’s comments ‘disappointing,’ and contradictory to what the flag represents.
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