With four Miami Dolphins players joining 49ers Colin Kaepernick's protest of the national anthem at NFL games, one of their teammates surprised fans by deciding not to kneel along with them -- wide receiver Jakeem Grant.
Following a show of support for Kaepernick by two Miami players during the season opener in Seattle, Grant said he decided to be one of the 49 players who stood for the anthem because of his connection to the military.
“I have a higher respect for the military guys to not kneel,” he told the Palm Beach Post, clarifying that he did not believe his teammates who knelt were being disrespectful of the military. “I have uncles that are in the military. Me kneeling, I just don’t feel right doing it. I’m not going to do it, but I understand how they feel and what they’re trying to accomplish.”
“I’m not against them. They do it in their own way, but in my way, kneeling is not gonna change anything. If we start going into the high-poverty areas and tell them it’s not right for us to kill each other ... and now we’re putting the blame on cops for killing us and we’re blowing it up,” he added. “But when we kill each other, it’s not blown up like that. We can’t sit there and just get extremely mad at them for doing that when we do it every single day.”
Grant said he never once considered joining the protest.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “I don’t like what’s going on here. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s my perspective.”
Grant also addressed the issue of racial tensions and injustices in regard to police officers and minority communities.
“I treat everybody with the same amount of respect,” he said. “It needs to be that equally across the board instead of it being wrong that white cop killed this black guy for no reason. Yes, that’s definitely wrong, but it’s not blown up when a black person kills a black person. Us, as black people, need to realize that we kill each other every day and you never see it skyrocket on the news, but when a white police officer kills a black guy it’s blown up. We need to start there first.”
Other sports authorities have made their positions known on the national anthem controversy, with the most recent being the U.S. Soccer league.
“Representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach that is associated with U.S. Soccer's National Teams. Therefore, our national anthem has particular significance for U.S. Soccer,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement released to ESPN.
“In front of national and often global audiences, the playing of our national anthem is an opportunity for our Men's and Women's National Team players and coaches to reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in this country. As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the national anthem is played."