Packers tight end Lance Kendricks was not conditioned to do anything but stand for the national anthem.
But the combination of the devastation of Hurricane Maria that touched family members in Puerto Rico and President Donald Trump’s response to NFL players who kneeled for the national anthem made him do something he never thought he’d do.
Kendricks told Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette about the reasons for his decision to sit for the anthem last week, and admitted that Donald Trump saying any “son of a bitch” who kneeled should be fired: “broke the camel’s back.”
Kendricks grew up in a military family, with uncles who served in Vietnam and a grandfather who fought in World War II. But he was mystified by Trump’s response to Puerto Rico, and fans’ response to players such as teammates Martellus Bennett who choose to protest during the anthem to call attention to issues of racial inequality and police brutality.
Kendricks knows his decision isn’t a popular one in many quarters, but he has been moved by current events. His wife’s family is struggling in Puerto Rico, and they unable to contact her grandfather for 10 days, only to find out he was hospitalized. So when people boo him, he wants them to understand why.
“As a diehard fan,” Kendricks says, “you might want to at least try to understand or do some research into it, and be like, ‘OK, I understand why he did what he did.’ As opposed to just automatically being like, ‘No, eff you guys. That was stupid. Stand up.’
“You wear this jersey at this bar, and you’re proud of what we’re doing on that field, and we’re busting our ass for you. But when we voice our opinion on a social issue, you’re against us?”
Kendricks said he might not have sat if not for remarks by Packers president Mark Murphy, who called Trump’s statements “divisive and offensive” and said it was “unfortunate” he misused his platform. In a state that swung red in last year’s elections, that was significant.
But it wasn’t an easy decision for Kendricks, and he said Bennett thanked him for joining him in protest last week. Bennett has been standing with a fist in the air.
“It’s hard to stand for something,” Bennett said, “when you’re standing by yourself. It’s easy to stand for something when there’s a group of guys doing it, but when you believe in something so strongly that you’re willing to go out there and stand by yourself, it’s totally different.”
For Kendricks, that was a difficult decision. But after making his stand by sitting last week, he wanted people to know why.