ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy has watched the reaction to Colin Kaepernick's decision to protest by sitting during the national anthem. He has thought about a lot of the issues Kaepernick has raised.
Although he said he won't be joining Kaepernick in his protest by sitting during the anthem, Levy supports Kaepernick and his decision "100 percent." Levy believes people are focusing too much on the form of protest and not the message behind it.
"It is missing the point. He didn't say anything about our troops. He's explicitly stated facts of what's happening in the country," Levy told ESPN on Monday. "People don’t want to talk about that, but they want to talk about the response. Even when people talk about rioting and everything that's happening after another black person gets killed, but they don't talk about what led to it, what created this culture where this is the norm now.
"So I think people have to direct their attention to the right things, to the reasoning, to the real issues."
Kaepernick specifically said he has "great respect" for those who fight in the military, but he feels that what they are fighting for is not being held up within the United States.
Like Kaepernick, Levy has tried to focus on real-world issues. He has spent the past two years "trying to find ways to have real-world impact" so he can help his communities. He spent part of the offseason speaking out against the NFL in terms of head trauma and CTE research. He wrote an essay to encourage other athletes to stand up and speak out against sexual assault.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell has said that he wants his players to speak their minds and would not mandate whether they stand for the anthem.
"There’s a lot of stuff happening in the world, you know what I mean, and football can't be the center of your universe. There's a lot happening, and people think that you get to this point, and you get money, you get millions, that you’re removed from the oppression," Levy said. "Like, that's one of the responses that I heard a lot of people saying, like he’s really oppressed, he's a million-dollar quarterback. But your financial place in life doesn't neglect -- you can't neglect your people, you know what I mean? You still have to be connected.
"If he doesn't say anything, it's like, 'Well, he has a platform, and he's not saying anything.' If he says something, it's like, 'Oh, this millionaire is saying something.'"
Lions guard Larry Warford, whose father served in the first Gulf War, said he didn't take Kaepernick's protest personally, and it is "his prerogative" if he chooses to make a point by sitting during the anthem.
Although Warford said there has not been a lot of conversation about Kaepernick's protest inside the Lions' locker room, he, like Levy, believes people are missing the point of what Kaepernick is trying to do.
"Yeah, because people are going to be somewhat biased because I feel a lot of it is about life experiences, and it’s hard to sympathize with a cause that you have no experience with and you haven't lived or lived with," Warford said. "I feel like some people are just throwing stuff out there just to put him in a bad light. But I don't think he really means anything. They are trying to paint a picture that he kind of hates this country, I guess. I wouldn't necessarily say that.
"I think it would be more accurate to say he doesn't agree with the issues and the problems with the country that are being put in the back seat. Like I said, I feel like it was about experiences, and we shouldn't be biased towards one way or the other. You should learn what's going on both sides of the argument and make a judgment from there, but I feel like people are blowing it up in a sense."
After seeing part of Kaepernick's interview Sunday, Lions tackle Cornelius Lucas tweeted, "small steps." When asked about his reaction to Kaepernick, Lucas expanded on his initial thoughts.
"It shouldn't be looked over," Lucas told ESPN on Monday. "It has some merit to it, and if you haven't realized there's a problem in this country, more than likely that's because you're probably part of the problem."
Was Lucas surprised by the reaction some had to Kaepernick?
"Am I surprised? The last thing I'm going to say: I feel like in this country you have an opinion," Lucas said. "You have the freedom of speech, until your opinion doesn't fit in with the American model."