In their own words: NFL players on the real meaning of the protests

"What good is the American dream if my sons and daughters aren't respected or even alive to enjoy it?"

Denver Broncos tight end Virgil Green (85) gestures as teammate Max Garcia, left, takes a knee during the playing of the national anthem prior to an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Denver Broncos tight end Virgil Green (85) gestures as teammate Max Garcia, left, takes a knee during the playing of the national anthem prior to an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Two days after Donald Trump called Colin Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” and advocated for owners to fire any player who protests during the national anthem, hundreds of players across the league and elsewhere in the sports world carried on Kaepernick’s legacy and found ways during the pre-game national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.

Some of them knelt, some of them sat, some linked arms, and some of them didn’t even come out on the field.

Many of these players were subjected to boos from fans and criticism from political leaders, but they decided to take a stand anyways. Here, in their own words, are the reasons a few of these players decided to join the protests on Sunday.

DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns quarterback: ‘[T]he ultimate goal is … to bring attention to the inequalities that are out there in our country.’

DeShone Kizer might be a rookie, but the Browns quarterback isn’t afraid to speak up against social injustice.

“I know for a fact that I’m no son of a bitch, and I plan on continuing forward and doing whatever I can from my position to promote the equality that’s needed in this country,” Kizer told reporters.

“I think the first thing happened with Colin (Kaepernick), that was the ultimate goal, is to be able to use our platform as a league to bring attention to the inequalities that are out there in our country and as we continue to move forward, and the conversation continues to grow, I think we’re doing our job in terms of bringing the recognition to that.”

Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia Eagles safety: ‘It’s really about effecting change in our communities.’

Malcolm Jenkins has been protesting all season by raising his first, and that continued on Sunday, though this time he was joined by more of his teammates. He compared Trump to a social media troll, and told reporters that he is focused on enacting real change on the ground.

 “I know there are multiple guys who have been behind the scenes doing work. Hopefully, we can continue to highlight that and hopefully, it’s not a one-week thing. We also know it’s not about the protest, it’s not about the national anthem. It’s really about effecting change in our communities,” Jenkins said.

“Hopefully, just like today was a collaborative effort of everybody pulling their resources to send messages and to bring people together, hopefully, that can continue on a micro level in each NFL city, each community and we can really break some walls down and makes some changes.”

Michael Thomas, Miami Dolphins safety: ‘As somebody in the NFL who is one of those ‘sons of bitches,’ yeah, I take it personally.’

Michael Thomas got visibly emotional after the game when talking about why he wore an #ImWithKaep shirt during warmups and linked arms with his teammates during the national anthem.

“As somebody in the NFL who is one of those ‘sons of bitches’,” Thomas continued, “Yeah I take it personally. But it’s bigger than me. I’ve got a daughter. She’s going to have to live in this world. I’m going to do whatever I’ve got to do.”

Seattle Seahawks: ‘We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country.’

Many teams issued lukewarm statements to talk about why they participated in the anthem protests, but the Seahawks got right to the point and addressed the real issues at hand.

Damon Harrison, defensive tackle for the New York Giants: ‘What good is the American dream if my sons and daughters aren’t respected or even alive to enjoy it?’

Damon Harrison was one of three Giants players to take a knee for the first time this week. After the game he posted an explanation for his decision on social media.

Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers tight end: ‘I do not have a master and neither does my mother.’

Bennett is the brother of Michael Bennett, the Seattle Seahawks defensive end who alleges he was the victim of police brutality in Las Vegas this summer. Michael has been sitting out during the anthem since the start of the year. Martellus had previously raised his fist during the anthem, but this week he remained seated

Donald Penn, Oakland Raiders left tackle: ‘Instead of trying to find ways to fix the problem, he’s always talking about the problem, demeaning the problem.’

Penn was one of many Oakland Raiders players to take a knee on Sunday night during the national anthem. He predicted correctly that Trump’s inflammatory comments would lead to a new wave of protests in the NFL.

“It’s very disheartening, President Trump’s comments,” Penn told NBC Saturday night. “For him to be — supposed to be — the leader of our country, instead of trying to find ways to fix the problem, he’s always talking about the problem, demeaning the problem. I just wish there was a better way that we could handle this and I think it’s going to start a domino effect. I think it’s going to start a lot more protests, a lot more guys are going to start taking knees, a lot more guys aren’t going to stand for the National Anthem because he’s basically calling us out.”