NFL Stars Baker Mayfield, J.J. Watt Comment On Players Kneeling During National Anthem
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – NFL stars Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns and J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans recently commented on players taking a knee during the national anthem prior to the start of games.
Mayfield and Watt, both white men, replied to comments on social media about their stance on the issue.
The players’ remarks came after weeks of nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. On May 25, Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
“Please tell Browns fans you’re not going to be kneeling this season,” a Cleveland fan commented on Mayfield’s Instagram account.
“Pull your head out. I absolutely am,” the Browns quarterback responded.
In another comment, Mayfield said, “The ignorance in this response says it all. It’s more than just the flag. It’s about our country and everyone being treated as equals. I have the utmost respect for our military and people that serve for our freedom. Lok up Kap and Nate’s agreement on what is the middle ground for standing for the right thing.”
In another post, the quarterback detailed his stance on kneeling during the anthem.
“Everybody so upset about my comment doesn’t understand the reason behind kneeling in the first place. I have the utmost respect for our military, cops, and people that serve OUR country. It’s about equality and everybody being treated the same because we are all human. It’s been ignored for too long and that it my fault as well for not becoming more educated and staying silent,” Mayfield wrote. “If I lose fans, that’s OK. I’ve always spoken my mind. And that’s from the heart.”
Mayfield has been outspoken on racial injustice. During a recent workout, he wore a shirt with the words “I Can’t Breathe” on the front.
“It’s a pivotal time for change,” Mayfield said on June 11. “What’s being addressed now obviously has been going on for a long time. So now everybody’s finally coming together to address it. And doing it the right way of holding people accountable.”
Similar to Mayfield, Watt replied to a comment on social media from someone assuming his stance on kneeling during the anthem.
“Pretty sure you won’t see J.J. Watt taking a knee,” the person tweeted.
“A) don’t speak for me,” the Texans defensive lineman responded. “B) If you still think it’s about disrespecting the flag or our military, you clearly haven’t been listening.”
On Friday, June 12, Watt’s head coach Bill O’Brien said he would join players in taking a knee during the anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
“Yeah, I’ll take a knee — I’m all for it,” O’Brien told the Houston Chronicle. “The players have a right to protest, a right to be heard and a right to be who they are. They’re not taking a knee because they’re against our flag. They’re taking a knee because they haven’t been treated equally in this country for over 400 years.”
NFL Commissioner & Other Players Speak Out
On June 4, some of the NFL’s most prominent players, including Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, released a video asking that NFL condemn racism and racial injustice.
On June 5, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released an apology video admitting the league was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”
On Thursday, June 11, the NFL announced that it would be donating $250 million over the next 10 years to “combat systemic racism and support the battle against injustices faced by African Americans.”
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first spoke out against racial injustice and police brutality in 2016. Kaepernick began to protest those issues by kneeling during the national anthem before the start of NFL games.
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Kaepernick last played in an NFL game on January 1, 2017.