On Wednesday, the NFL implemented a new rule meant to ban peaceful protests during the National Anthem, which former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick pioneered before the league froze him out last year. On Thursday afternoon, Warriors basketball coach Steve Kerr, had a few things to say about it.
“It’s just typical of the NFL,” Kerr told reporters, referring to the new policy, which requires all players to stand for the national anthem or remain in the locker room. “They’re just playing to their fan base. Basically just trying to use the anthem as fake patriotism, nationalism, scaring people. It’s idiotic. But that’s how the NFL has conducted their business.”
Kerr went on to say he was proud to work for the NBA, which he said understands patriotism is about free speech.
“They were kneeling to protest police brutality, to protest racial inequality,” he said, referencing both Kaepernick’s and other NFL players’ decision not to stand for the national anthem.
Kerr then pointed to President Trump’s negative reaction to the initial NFL protests, in which he suggested the players were being unpatriotic. “They weren’t disrespecting the flag or the military,” he said. “But our president decided to make it about that and the NFL followed suit, pandered to their fan base, created this hysteria.”
The hysteria over peaceful protests during the anthem, Kerr said, is emblematic of larger problems in the country. “People in high places trying to divide us, divide loyalties, make this about the flag as if the flag is something other than it really is,” he said.
Kaepernick first began taking a knee in 2016 to protest police brutality and systematic racial inequalities that define America to this day. Following pushback from the president and other conservative figures, however, all 32 NFL team owners — without the input of the NFL Players Association — moved to keep protests like Kaepernick’s off the field, in a unanimous decision passed Wednesday.
If players refuse to stand on the field during the anthem, they’ll be hit with fines.
Trump praised the new policy on Thursday, saying in an interview with Fox & Friends, “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
Kerr’s comments are timely: on Wednesday, video was released showing that Milwaukee cops had lied about the violent arrest of NBA rookie Sterling Brown. Though the police initially said Brown, a guard for the Milwaukee Bucks, was arrested after he “confronted them and became combative,” video footage shows it was police officers who first confronted Brown, not the other way around.
The NBA, in stark contrast with their NFL counterparts, reacted quickly to the news, offering support and stating that the incident was the result of a much larger problem.
“The abuse and intimidation that Sterling experienced at the hands of Milwaukee Police was shameful and inexcusable,” Bucks spokespersons said in a statement released Wednesday. “Sterling has our full support as he shares his story and takes action to provide accountability.”
The team added, “Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated case. It shouldn’t require an incident involving a professional athlete to draw attention to the fact that vulnerable people in our communities have experienced similar, and even worse, treatment.”
The statement argued that racial biases and abuses of powers “must not be ignored,” and concluded with a call for increased accountability.