Tennessee Titans player Delanie Walker has just one word for fans who won’t watch NFL games or will boycott advertisers due to the ongoing national anthem protests: “Bye.”
“First off, I’m going to say this: We’re not disrespecting the military, the men and woman that serve in the Army. That’s not what it’s all about,” Walker said, reported The Tennessean newspaper. “I’ve been in the USO. I support the troops. This is not about that. It’s about equal rights, and that’s all everyone is trying to show, is that we all care about each other.”
“And the fans that don’t want to come to the game? I mean, OK. Bye. I mean, if you feel that’s something, we’re disrespecting you, don’t come to the game. You don’t have to. No one’s telling you to come to the game. It’s your freedom of choice to do that,” said Walker, a tight end who played for the San Francisco 49ers for years before joining Tennessee in 2013.
The Titans, Seattle Seahawks, and Pittsburgh Steelers skipped the national anthem. The teams stayed in the locker room or in the stadium tunnel. However, the Steelers issued a statement later, saying that they skipped it to not get involved with politics. In a statement, the Steelers said, “The intentions of the Steelers players were to stay out of the business of making political statements by not taking the field,” adding that it wasn’t meant to be a “boycott of the anthem” and that was “never our players’ intention.”
It’s unclear, according to the Tennesseean report, how the Titans will handle the national anthem in the future.
“That’s their choice [not to watch],” cornerback Logan Ryan told the newspaper. “That’s the beauty of this country. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and everyone’s opinion is equal. So right, wrong or indifferent, that’s the beauty of this country—that everyone should have equal rights and equal opinions on what they want. If they don’t want to watch, that’s their choice. That’s perfect.”
Around 200 NFL players protested in some way as the national anthem was sung.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick ushered in the protests in 2016, and a few players followed suit last year. Kaepernick and other players have claimed they’re protesting police brutality in the wake of prominent officer-involved shootings around the United States and perceived racial injustice.
Sunday’s protests were the largest of their kind.
They were prompted after President Donald Trump over the weekend suggested that any player who sits or takes a knee should be fired.
“Tremendous backlash against the NFL and its players for disrespect of our Country.#StandForOurAnthem,” he tweeted Sept. 25.
He added, “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!