A caller to Nick Saban’s radio show this week identified himself as a retired veteran before asking the Alabama coach what he thinks of NFL players who use the national anthem to protest social injustice and police brutality. Saban again talked about a divided nation, a topic he addressed earlier in the week in his media session.
“First of all, I’m just a football coach,” Saban said, via a transcript from USA Today. “I don’t have all the answers to all the problems that we have in society. The one thing that’s a little disappointing to me is something that has always been really unifying, something that created spirit in our country and was very unifying is no longer that way. That’s a little bothersome to me.
“I don’t think that what these people are doing is in any way, shape or form meant to disrespect a veteran or somebody like yourself who has worked so hard, fought so hard and sacrificed so much for all of us to have the quality of life that we want to have. But one of the things that you also fought for and made sacrifice for was that we could all have the freedom to have a choice in terms of what we believe, what we do and what we said. This is not something . . . and, look, I respect people’s individual rights.
“I have my opinions in terms of what I would do and how I would do it. I’m not one ever to disrespect the symbols that represent the values of our country. I also respect individual differences that other people have and they have the right to express those — whether it’s our players or somebody else, whether I agree or disagree, I do think they have the right to do that.”
Saban said teams were an example of players rallying together for a common cause despite their differences.
“I don’t keep up with that stuff as much as everybody else does, especially during the season, especially when we’re playing games,” Saban told beat reporters. “But to me, some of the things that we do in our country, when I grew up, they were unifying events. It’s a little painful to see that those things are not so right now.”
UPDATE: An original version of the article said the quotes were from this week. The story from 2017 is making the rounds on social media today, but the quotes actually were from 2017.