NFL players are planning to take a knee during the national anthem this season. At least one coach will join them.
Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle that he will be kneeling alongside his players.
“Yeah, I’ll take a knee — I’m all for it,” O’Brien told McClain. “The players have a right to protest, a right to be heard and a right to be who they are. They’re not taking a knee because they’re against our flag. They’re taking a knee because they haven’t been treated equally in this country for over 400 years.”
That seems to be the prevailing theme across the NFL. The league itself has changed its message on players peacefully protesting to bring attention to racial injustice. Many high-profile white players, and now a coach, have expressed support. It’s entirely different than 2016, when Colin Kaepernick and others took a knee to bring attention to social issues and most of the league — and the NFL itself — didn’t know how to react.
In 2020, anyone not kneeling might stand out.
Bill O’Brien ready to kneel with players
O’Brien has had a rough offseason. Not just because of the infamous DeAndre Hopkins trade. A report after the trade said O’Brien had a meeting with Hopkins in which he compared Hopkins to Aaron Hernandez and criticized Hopkins for having two children with two women. That likely drew some attention in the Texans’ locker room.
But when it has come to the social justice fight, O’Brien has hit the right notes.
“I’ve got all the respect in the world for OB,” Texans safety Justin Reid told the Houston Chronicle. “He had the public statement that he made publicly and also in a private team meeting. He let us have the opportunity to talk with him and give our opinion and feelings on what’s going on in the state of the country and what we can do about it. My true feelings are that him and Jack [Easterby, executive vice president of team development] and all the other guys are sincere.”
It’s interesting that the coach of the Texans, who also was given the general manager title, is outspoken in favor of taking a knee. Houston was one of the teams that fought the protests the hardest in 2016. Owner Bob McNair infuriated players in 2016 by saying, about players kneeling, that you can’t “have the inmates running the prison.” McNair in 2018 said he regretted apologizing for that remark. There was a report in 2018 that McNair wouldn’t sign players who took a knee. McNair died in 2018.
Kneeling might be more widespread than 2016
In 2016, only a few players were kneeling regularly, and there was the half-hearted effort for unity with players locking arms. It seems like that will be much different in 2020.
It seems like we will see most, if not all, players and coaches kneeling in a show of support for the fight against racial injustice. We haven’t heard from opponents of the movement. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees made a statement about not agreeing with disrespecting the flag, and he drew the ire of players not just around the NFL but all sports.
If there are players and coaches who do oppose the latest movement, they will be easy to spot this season. It will be difficult to hide.
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