The Jacksonville Jaguars have never had a player kneel in protest during the national anthem before a game. But that doesn’t mean there’s not conversation in the locker room about kneeling or Colin Kaepernick — or that current and former players alike didn’t see and hear current President Donald Trump refer to anthem protesters as “that son of a bitch.”
The President then doubled down and said team owners should fire the protesters and would gain notoriety for doing so.
The speech in Huntsville, Alabama lasted around an hour and 20 minutes. Here are his full comments on the protests:
“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!’ You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in the country."
As a result, several former Jaguars players responded on Twitter in support of more anthem protests or just plain bewilderment that a sitting U.S. President could advocate firing an American citizen for exercising their Constitutional rights.
I hope more players kneel https://t.co/FjBHNhESh0— Terrance Knighton (@MisterRoast98) September 23, 2017
Unbelievable what he just said!! https://t.co/K5H58E3h43— Cecil Shorts III (@CecilShortsIII) September 23, 2017
While current Jaguars players have been largely quiet in public, they don’t shy away from answering questions in private. As early as September 25, 2016, five Jaguars players including Dante Fowler Jr., Jared Odrick, Telvin Smith, Hayes Pullard and Denard Robinson raised their right hands during the national anthem.
That was the same day that wide receiver Allen Robinson used his touchdown celebration to make a “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture and bring awareness to social injustice and an inequal treatment of different groups of people in this country at the hands of police officers.
Later in the year, former cornerback Prince Amukamara said at a town hall event that 10-12 Jaguars players had spoken with Gus Bradley and were planning a pregame protest but that Colin Kaepernick wearing socks with pictures of pigs dressed as police officers derailed their efforts.
"I do agree with what Colin was kneeling for and how it wasn’t against the military, but he was protesting against injustice that was being toward black Americans being shot," Amukamara said in November of 2016. "Then when he did the sock thing with cops and pigs, I’m like, ‘No. Now I can’t even kneel with him because if I do, then I’m supporting that, too’, which I don’t support. I don’t think any cops are pigs.
"Me, KB [left tackle Kelvin Beachum], and a lot of guys on the team, either we were going to do it together or not at all. It wasn’t just going to be one or two people — it was going to be 10 or 12 people — and we just couldn’t get it worked out."
As recently as this past August, Jaguars players were still talking about in the locker room. Those willing to speak about anthem protests didn’t seem to think that demonstrating before the game was the right way — or their right way — of going about it.
“We’re pretty politically aware of the situation that went on in Charlottesville and around the United States,” Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson said on August 29. “Just because we don’t take a knee or sit down [during the national anthem] doesn’t mean we’re not with the cause [of being against social injustice or inequality].
“At the end of the day, this is our livelihood and our business. Some guys don’t mind standing up and taking on the risk. Some of us will say it in other ways. We just decided to do things a little different than taking knees or putting hands on backs [during the anthem].”
While some, like second-year linebacker Myles Jack, said he can see why Kaepernick’s choice of kneeling can be offensive to some.
“What Kaepernick is trying to convey and what he’s doing, I get the message,” Jack said before the season started. “But I also see the other side where people are looking at the flag and what that represents. Personally, I feel like his protest is harmless, but I completely get why some people see it as offensive.
“I think people needed to listen to him, just hear out what he’s saying. Just listen.”
The Jaguars may not have staged as large-scale a protest as the Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, or Cleveland Browns, but with Trump’s comments last night in Alabama that may change soon.