As long as any NFL players lodge any form of protest during the national anthem, there will be others who try to twist those actions for their own publicity and political benefit.
That’s why Chargers left tackle Russell Okung felt compelled to explain why he continues to raise his fist during the anthem — to bring attention to police brutality and racial discrimination.
“One, we’re not protesting the president of the United States,” Okung said, via Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times. “I think it’s unfortunate that the president , I guess, does not respect advanced American citizenship, in terms of what our country actually looks like – the reflection of that. Our country is a place where there has always been creative conflict in order for us to move forward. I think what we’re doing now is healthy.
“It’s no direct reflection of disrespect for the military. I think all the guys who have protested are definitely for the military. It’s been unfortunate to see the president has worked to gain political points by putting players down.”
So wait, if it’s not the president, and not the military, what is it Okung is trying to draw attention to.
“I think it’s pretty simple. I think the way laws are set up, whether we’re looking at the civil rights amendment, people have abilities and [power] in which how they can handle people and handle people from certain backgrounds,” Okung said. “I think police brutality is a really difficult issue in this country and disproportionate to people of color — black people specifically. I think it’s important to further that conversation and really look forward to ways of change.”
He thinks the discussions that stemmed from the attention the protests created has been positive, even as the NFL stumbles along trying to find a way to keep the political football from being spiked in their faces.
“I think there have been a lot of conversations. People are really aware of things that people . . . people maybe never saw this as an issue before,” he said. “It’s just so unfortunate that people try to shift the narrative for their own interests and create propaganda around these issues.”
As long as players have the platform and attention, they will continue to use it. The same is likely true of the President, as he wakes up in the morning and checks his Twitter mentions.