Nick Saban: NFL players have a “right” to protest during anthem

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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.

49 responses to “Nick Saban: NFL players have a “right” to protest during anthem

  1. Classy. You don’t have to agree, but the best thing to do is to acknowledge that there are inherent differences when it comes to race in this country. If you can respect what others may be going through and listen to their issues, you are helping make this country great.

  2. Nick is on to Chattanooga Central Valley State or whatever. Don’t bother him with inane questions.

  3. ripwarrior says:
    September 7, 2018 at 3:51 pm
    Lol why do they have a right to protest while they are working?

    ———————————————————

    Lol it’s called Freedom of Speech. And they aren’t ‘working’ when the Anthem is playing; they work when the clock starts.

  4. omeletpants says:
    September 7, 2018 at 3:52 pm
    I prefer to follow the position of our great President, not some football coach

    ———————————————–

    Our “great” President needs to focus on more important things in this country than things that don’t concern him…. like players that are protesting real-world issues and companies that back them.

  5. I respect the kneeling and standing player’s opinions (as long as they know why they’re doing what they’re doing and it’s not just for spite or group think).

    That being said, players most certainly do not have a “right” to do it during the anthem at the stadium when they’re “on the clock” representing an employer and the league.

  6. scoops1 says:
    September 7, 2018 at 3:53 pm
    I wish i had the right to protest or exercise Freedom of Speech on my Company’s time

    —————————————

    You do every time you open your mouth and say something while on the clock.

  7. This is getting so tedious. Of course they have the “right” to protest, just as I have the right to walk into the office of my boss and scream profanities while giving him the finger. There is no such thing as a right from consequences. NFL owners then have a right to punish their employees as they see fit, just as my boss would have the right to can me on the spot. The 1st Amendment only ensures the right against government censorship, punishment, or suppression of free speech and/or expression.

  8. The National Anthem is 2 minutes long on average. Everyone that works gets a lunch and a break. On that break if you want to peacefully protest for 2 minutes by quietly kneeling how could you get fired on your break or lunch? That’s your time to work out, smoke or write comments on pro football talk. Get over it.

  9. ripwarrior says:
    September 7, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    Lol why do they have a right to protest while they are working?
    ——————————-
    EVERYONE has a right to protest while they’re working or not. The one protesting is taking all the risk and may/may not be fired or reprimanded by their employer. Agree or disagree with a protest, it’s 100% their right.

  10. terripet says:
    September 7, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    Saban your a idiot
    ———————————————————————————

    I know it’s ubiquitous on the internet, but people who don’t even know the difference between “your” and “you’re” calling other people idiots never ceases to amuse me.

  11. A few of you have no idea what freedom of speech means. Just cause you have freedom of speech you cannot say whatever you want without repercussions.

  12. The Right to Protest is NOT the issue !…It is the Platform used in such action !…The Anthem and Flag of our Country is Sacred to those of us who have Defended and Served this Country ! It is to be Honored and Respected…PERIOD !…I have lost to many friends in war for it Not to be so!They and many others, have given the supreme sacrifice for the Defense of Our Nation and Deserve our Respect…period !…If the NFL thinks they are bigger than this and want a fight, they are going to lose many, many grass roots long time supporters.. !!! Guaranteed !
    Dana Brinkmeier…Disabled Vn Era Vet[ Combat Corpsman/ Battle Surgery Tech]

  13. “why do they have a right to protest while they are working?”
    “NFL owners then have a right to punish their employees as they see fit, just as my boss would have the right to can me on the spot. “

    These ideas miss the point.

    NFL players have a union, so every rule and every consequence for breaking rules has to be negotiated by both the players and the league.

    And there’s no rule against kneeling or otherwise protesting during the anthem.

    So yes, the players can kneel, sit, raise a fist, or whatever they want during the anthem (provided they’re not breaking any OTHER rules), becuase it’s not against the rules that the players and league have signed off on. They can’t be punished because there’s nothing to punish.

    That’s also why the “anthem policy” that the league wrote can’t be enforced — because the players’ union didn’t agree to it!

    So yeah, if you don’t have a union job, your boss could fire you for doing some kind of protest on company time. But if you have a union and you do something management doesn’t like but isn’t against the rules, your union has your back.

    The bottom line is if the league wants to make a rule requiring players to stand during the anthem, they’ll need to get the players to agree to it. Which means the league will need to give the players something they want in exhange for signing off on the rule.

  14. What if every player started protesting whatever they feel like because it is their right! Illegal immigration, abortion, clean water for all, animal rights, minimum wage? Get it Nick?

  15. Nick is just pandering to future FB recruits, if he bashes those kneeling, whom are overwhelmingly black. Then he faces the possibility of alienating young black High Schoolers that look up to these NFL players. Playing politics too keep Bama well stocked….

  16. Nick Saban is wrong! I keep asking this question of all these people who are pro-Kaepernick– which no one has to date had the guts to answer — suppose it was a southern player holding up a Confederate flag during the Anthem — how would you feel about that? How would Saban feel about it? Would people like Kaepernick himself stick up for a white player who did that and say its his right to protest on a football field like that? Are you kidding me — if a white player did that not only would the no-backbone NFL blast him and stop him, all those ambulance chasing black leaders like Al Sharpton would be all over it! The truth is the truth folks, no matter which way the wind blows!
    Further — it is NOT a Constitutional right of anyone to protest what ever they want when and where they want to do it!!
    I swear, people in this country are unbelievably stupid about issues such as this. And most of it is because they are either afraid to stand up to people like Kaepernick or they are as misguided as he is about their so-called “rights”.
    As for Saban, there’s a guy who is in a coaching fraternity which forces their players to wear certain brands of sneakers because the coach gets paid millions of dollars to make them wear them!! So anything he has to say on any moral subject is a joke!
    And the other thing Saban is wrong about is just because he doesn’t feel that these protesters are disrespecting our flag and our anthem, it doesn’t mean everyone agrees with him. Millions of people disagree with him about that!! Ask moms who have lost their sons or wives who have lost their husbands dying for what that flag represents about that!!

  17. ripwarrior says:
    September 7, 2018 at 3:51 pm
    Lol why do they have a right to protest while they are working?
    ———–
    Cause the NFL owners accepted taxpayer funds to put on patriotic displays. Therefore they are acting as an agent of the government by accepting those funds to which they cannot deny the players their free speech be it kneeling, raising a fist, whatever.

    It’s very simple if you can think critically.

  18. Nick Saban is not wrong and nyneal you are obviously a white man expressing your opinion, which you have every right to do. I too am a white man, raised in the South for most of my 50+ years. But your analogy of a white man holding a confederate flag is really not accurate. That would be the equivalent of holding the flag of another country to many people, an act far more egregious than kneeling in my opinion. The confederate flag has negative connotations in and of itself aside from the act of demonstrating it during the national anthem. Point is, I do not think your analogy is a fair one, a white player holding a confederate flag would be a much more extreme expression than a player kneeling.

    I will not tell you I agree with what CK has started, but my feelings are not relevant. I would, however, argue that the men and women who died for this country did so to give him the right to kneel. Or to burn that flag if he must. If he’s on the job and his employer, his NFL team in this instance, does not condone it, they have the right to fire him. But to say he does not have the right to kneel is naive. He has every right, and no citizen has any more “claim” to the American flag than Mr. Kaepernick, and no less.

  19. The Right to Protest is NOT the issue !…It is the Platform used in such action !…The Anthem and Flag of our Country is Sacred to those of us who have Defended and Served this Country ! It is to be Honored and Respected…PERIOD !…I have lost to many friends in war for it Not to be so!They and many others, have given the supreme sacrifice for the Defense of Our Nation and Deserve our Respect…period !…If the NFL thinks they are bigger than this and want a fight, they are going to lose many, many grass roots long time supporters.. !!! Guaranteed !
    Dana Brinkmeier…Disabled Vn Era Vet[ Combat Corpsman/ Battle Surgery Tech]

    ———————————
    I am a veteran and I get a bit riled up when someone writes things like the above. Don’t put your words and opinions into my mouth. There are as many different opinions among veterans as there are in any other large group of people. I will say one more thing about this. I have never, ever, in all my life heard a single veteran say, “I am serving and I am willing to give my life to be sure that everyone is forced to stand for the national anthem”.

  20. mr saban, keep talkin. the buckeyes will slaughter your hillbilly team come playoff time, mark my words.

    and stay out of the nfl’s business with your mega bust quarterback and running backs.

  21. A lot of people have very strong feelings for this topic and I understand that, but I think Saban gave a good answer. You could never pass a law that forced everyone to stand during the Anthem, it is protected by freedom of speech. It is fairly odd that we play the National Anthem before sporting events if you don’t know the history behind it. It originated during the World Series in WWI to honor the soldiers and the lives lost, and slowly spread to the point where it was ordered by the NFL Commissioner to be played at every game by the end of WWII. However, the sporting event has nothing to do with our military, the fallen soldiers, etc. Playing and standing became a tradition to show your support and rally our nation in a time of need. I can see where kneeling is a different tradition to show your support for the lives that you feel were unjustly taken…it’s not all that different. It’s a poor choice of protest and a bad look for the NFL, but it’s not illegal, and currently it isn’t against the rules, which would have to be passed by the NFLPA Union. Many of you are forgetting that the individual owners and overall NFL might have a hard time forcing the players to stand, and would likely be open to lawsuits if they tried.

  22. The right will only be the right as long as the owner allows. There is nothing in the union contract that gives them the right to protest on company time or in company uniform. too bad none of the owners have the guts to take charge.

  23. The employer has rights as well, they have the right to create rules and expect their employees to govern themselves by those rules.

    I don’t really buy the idea that It is overstepping for an employer to require conduct such as standing For a national anthem. I don’t think it violates any one’s freedom of expression.

    Overall, these players are famous because of their ability to play football, not their activism or their political believes. It is fine if they use that theme to try and do social good, but the idea that they should be allowed to bring their politics into the game, And no one can say anything against that without being labelled intolerant – is intolerant.

    I love football, it really seems like the people who are vehemently on one side or the other are the ones who are screwing this up for everyone. It would just be lovely if everyone was willing to have a discussion, but then willing to move on after the discussion has been had, and somewhat of a consensus has been reached. Instead nowadays, When a consensus is reached that people don’t like, they choose to scream as loudly as possible, be as uncooperative as possible, and seek to blame all world issues on the other side of the debate. Can we just please keep this out of football for heaven sake‘s?

  24. A lot of people here are missing probably the biggest point – and claiming a falsehood.
    These players are not working for “the company”. They are contractors working for themselves.
    NFL players are kneeling to bring attention to the many injustices in our society while others remain silent. We shouldn’t condemn them, we should celebrate them.
    America has always been about standing up to Injustice. Not cozying up to authoritarians and dictators.
    We are America.

  25. Here’s my thing about the “freedom of speech does not extend to your job” argument: first off, wayyyyyyyy too much respect is being given to business owners. The way some of you talk about business owners, who I have no general disrespect or respect for, it’s like they’re the ruling class. Second, when you say that you’d be fired from your Regular Joe job if you protested something on the clock….I’m pretty sure these owners CAN fire the players who protest if they want. The president that all these flag-worshippers love so much is getting calluses on his Twitter-typing fingers encouraging the NFL to do so. The letter of the law says free speech is NOT extended into the workplace, that’s actually correct. Soooo….why are these guys not getting fired? It’s because they aren’t easily replaceable. Your boss can probably find someone who is just as good as you at designing websites or fixing air conditioners or managing a sales team or whatever it is you do that doesn’t involve being a world class athlete who’s 6’4, 250 and runs a 4.45 40, and is the sole reason people pay hundreds of dollars to watch them play in person, and advertisers pay millions and millions of dollars to TV channels to advertise to the millions and millions of viewers at home, after said channels paid even more millions to the League for the broadcasting rights. So I think that’s why. If you were one of the top 1,700 people in the world at your job (and really even less than that if you factor it by position), your boss would probably pump the brakes on firing you too.

  26. The Right to Protest is NOT the issue !…It is the Platform used in such action !…The Anthem and Flag of our Country is Sacred to those of us who have Defended and Served this Country ! It is to be Honored and Respected…PERIOD !…I have lost to many friends in war for it Not to be so!They and many others, have given the supreme sacrifice for the Defense of Our Nation and Deserve our Respect…period !…If the NFL thinks they are bigger than this and want a fight, they are going to lose many, many grass roots long time supporters.. !!! Guaranteed !
    Dana Brinkmeier…Disabled Vn Era Vet[ Combat Corpsman/ Battle Surgery Tech]
    —————————
    I served, joined up shortly after 9/11. It wasn’t because of the flag or anthem, it was because my best friend and several other college buddies were killed while working at Franklin Templeton and I was 22 and thought I was invincible and pissed off. After 13 months in Afghanistan and 11 months in Iraq I feel qualified to ask this: What the hell are you talking about? Not a single person I served with shares your views. You are entitled to your views, but don’t say you speak for all those who served, especially the dead. I have written and called more families for the men in my command and will not abide some stranger on the internet attributing beliefs to them to advance his own political agenda.

  27. sometimes a player’s place of employment is a publicly funded venue not owned by any of the teams.

  28. So ole Nick is a”constitutionalist” Well, guess I have the right to my pistol to any Alabama game, right Nick?
    Rights don’t give you a “pass” to exercise that right anywhere. There are limitations and responsibilities.

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