Cam Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, recently spoke about players who have been kneeling, adding that ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sacrificed his career.
“My hat goes off to the Colin Kaepernicks of the world,” Newton told the Charlotte Observer.
“He’s made the ultimate sacrifice [as a player] and I respect that wholeheartedly. I can’t let a moment go by without shedding light to that: A person that does have the talent to play, a person that should be in this league, but I feel as if he’s not getting his just due because of his views,” he said.
“But that’s a legend, right there. For him to think outside of himself, to raise awareness of something that, this is 365 days removed from his first initial stand, and now here we are doing the same things. And now everybody is kind of understanding what his reasoning was, and I respect that.”
Kaepernick is still an NFL free agent. He opted out of his 49ers contract on March 3, 2017.
Newton didn’t protest during the national anthem last week. The only Carolina player to protest was Julius Peppers.
It comes after Newton and other Carolina Panthers players met with owner Jerry Richardson. For his part, Richardson released a statement on the protests, saying that “politicizing the game is damaging and takes the focus off the greatness of the game itself and those who play it.”
“We just wanted to meet with Mr. Richardson to discuss certain things that were on our mind and our hearts from different perspectives. The different people that were over there come from different backgrounds and have different views. One thing about it is that we agreed that everyone is entitled to their own thought process, so to speak. I feel as if a lot of what we talked about is confidential, but it was a very productive meeting,” Newton told CBS Sports.
Statement from Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson pic.twitter.com/aTDcTkfIRW
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) September 25, 2017
Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said that Richardson told the team that players “don’t have to be worried” if they choose to protest.
Captain Munnerlyn said message from Jerry Richardson after meeting with players was players don't have to be worried about repercussions.
— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) September 27, 2017
Newton did not reveal what the Panthers would do during the anthem next week.
“I just think you have to watch and see. But by no means we don’t want to offend anybody. Nobody who has protested meant for it to be disrespectful to the United States flag or whatever demonstration or a protest that person had. It’s just personal beliefs that individual believes in and with the amendments and U.S. bylaws, you have to give that person respect. Whether we agree with that person or not, they still have the right to feel a certain type of way. You just have to respect that,” he told CBS.
President Donald Trump went after NFL players for not standing during the national anthem, suggesting that they should be fired. The president also noted that NFL ratings have dropped due to fans turning off games over the protests.
“Ratings for NFL football are way down except before game starts, when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected!” the president tweeted. He’s tweeted more than a dozen times about the league protests.
The protests started last season when Kaepernick refused to stand during the anthem, saying he was protesting “police brutality” and “racial injustice.” He initially sat out on the bench, drawing widespread condemnation, and then changed the form of his protest to taking a knee during the anthem. Kaepernick currently doesn’t play for an NFL team, but a number of players have followed suit to sit or kneel during the anthem.