Veteran Christian NFL player Adrian Peterson of the Washington Redskins said when the 2020 season kicks off in September, he and other players plan to continue Colin Kaepernick’s controversial take a knee protest during the national anthem against racial injustice and instances of police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's death.
“Just four years ago, you’re seeing Kaepernick taking a knee, and now we’re all getting ready to take a knee together going into this season, without a doubt,” Peterson, 35, told the Houston Chronicle in an interview published Friday.
Kaepernick, a professed Christian and former NFL player, began kneeling during the performance of the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality and the treatment of minorities while he was a member of the San Francisco 49ers. The protest drew condemnation from some fans, President Donald Trump, as well as the NFL. He was also criticized for wearing socks depicting cops as pigs at field practices and for having donated $25,000 to "Assata's Daughters," a group named after FBI fugitive and convicted cop-killer Assata Shakur.
When Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers to become a free agent in March 2017 and then failed to get signed to a new team, the debate over the protest went largely quiet until it was reignited months later in September 2017 by the president who urged team owners to fire players who protest.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now, out, he's fired! He's fired!'" Trump said during a campaign event for Sen. Luther Strange.
In 2018 the NFL announced new rules requiring all players to stand for the national anthem, stay in the locker room if they can't, or face a fine for breaking them.
On Friday, however, as protests over the killing of Floyd raged globally, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a video that the league was wrong in how it treated players protesting police brutality and systemic racism.
"We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people," Goodell said. "We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all players to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe that black lives matter."
Peterson’s announcement comes as New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees continues to weather backlash for saying he would "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America," particularly because he had relatives who died while in military service. He subsequently apologized several times for the comments but was slammed by Trump on Friday for doing so.
“I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag. OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high. We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!” President Trump said in a tweet Friday.
I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag. OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2020
In a public response to the president on Instagram over the weekend, Brees said he had now come to see the protest a bit differently after talking with his teammates who were hurt by his comments.
“Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.
We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform,” Brees said.
“We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when? We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us,” he added.
Peterson told the Houston Chronicle that while he believes Brees isn’t a racist, he feels his response to the protest could have been more thoughtful.
“I know Drew Brees. He’s not a racist at all, and I have a lot of love for him, but I think this was a situation where he should have thought things out more and tried to look at things in a different view. He made a comment about what he thinks about his grandfather and his great-grandfather going to war,” the Redskins running back said.
“My parents had great-grandparents that went to war as well, but when they came back, they still weren’t able to vote. We just didn’t have the same rights. When you look at it from that point of view, we understand where you’re coming from, but we don’t understand where you’re coming from as well for those reasons,” he continued. “We still don’t have equality in the United States. Our people fought as well and played a big role in the victory. I love Drew. I have nothing but respect for him, but I think he should have thought about it a little longer.”
During Kaepernick’s protest a number of Christian players in the NFL, such as tight end Benjamin Watson, argued that Jesus would support players taking a knee.
"We talk about what Jesus would do. Let's think about that," Watson, who had been standing for the national anthem, said in a 2017 report. "How should I biblically look at this situation? Is my response as an American going against what my response should be as a Christian? If I'm a Christian, I want to delight in the things that [Christ] delights in and those things are blind. They're not based on color, creed or culture or money.
"Being kind is not predicated on what you can do for me. Justice is not predicated on if I experienced injustice or not. We can advocate for people who have experiences that we don't even have. True justice is blind and righteous. Christians should be about expanding and promoting the Gospel. If you listen or think about the subject matter that players and people are concerned about, you could not, as someone who reads Scripture, turn a blind eye to it."