Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz held an open forum during a meeting Monday to discuss Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit down for the national anthem, according to multiple players in attendance.
Schwartz is deeply patriotic, several noted, and asks his players to line up side-by-side, hand over heart, to pay respect to the country’s servicemen and women pregame. He did not steer this conversation in any particular direction, instead encouraging his players to speak their minds.
“Coach Schwartz, he feels very strongly about the defense standing up for the national anthem and showing respect for this country and those that came before us, but he is also open to guys standing up for what they believe in,” said safety Ed Reynolds.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Believe what you want to believe outside but we’re all going to stand on this.’ No, ‘You can do what you believe in,’ which I think is cool for a coach. He wanted that conversation, but then he’s allowing you to kind of express yourself.”
According to one player who was in the meeting, Malcolm Jenkins, Leodis McKelvin and rookie linebacker Myke Tavarres were among those who talked during the session, which lasted about 15 minutes. Tavarres later told ESPN.com that he plans on sitting down for the national anthem when the Eagles host the New York Jets on Thursday.
“One thing that Schwartz made clear is he didn’t fault anybody or say, you can’t do this or you can’t do that, he just wanted us to know that, you guys have freedom of speech, and when you act on those things, how do you feel about them, where is it going and who do you want to direct it towards?” linebacker Najee Goode said. “There’s a lot of controversy with that stuff. ... Personally I wouldn’t have done [what Kaepernick did] because of the kind of controversy it draws to the team, the questions that guys [have to answer], stuff like that. There’s other ways to get out there to do things, to stand up and protest, but he has a right to do it. Really it was just, if you’re going to do something like that, tell the team, tell your guys because of the type of media it does bring.”
Opinions on the Kaepernick issue are mixed. Reynolds, for instance, said that he is going to stand for the anthem partly out of respect for his dad, who was in the Army Reserve, and his grandfather, who served in Vietnam.
“It’s not just about, ‘Oh I love America.’ But you stand up for family members that you have in the military, your appreciation of your freedoms here,” said Reynolds. “You might not agree with everything that is going on in this country, but at the same time, being in this country does allow you to live in a certain way, and other people would probably die for that, die for that opportunity.”
Defensive end Steven Means has family in the military as well but has not ruled out joining Kaepernick in protest.
“To be honest, I feel strongly about it, and I don’t think with my emotions and anger I’m mature enough to even elaborate on that,” Means said. “I didn’t say anything during the discussion just because of the bias ... everybody is entitled to their own opinion, so just not being able to see it from other people’s perspective, it can get me in a whirlwind of emotions, so I would just rather stay away from it.”
Are you in support of Kaepernick?
“I’m on that side,” he said. “But I’ve got family, like close aunts and cousins, uncles in the military, so you’ve got to just respect that side of it, too. But at the same time, I come from an environment where [social injustice] happens all the time and goes unnoticed. It’s just a touchy subject so I just refrain from really making any statements about it.”
Would you consider joining in that protest?
“I think I need to do some more deep thinking about it before I make a decision one way or another,” Means replied.
The conversation spilled over into positional meetings once the defensive meeting was over, a couple players said. It’s a topic that appears to be top of mind for many across the NFL.
“That might be a trend around the league, you never know,” said Reynolds of others sitting down for the national anthem. “How many guys on teams now will sit out? I think that’s what everyone is waiting for, like at that next game, how many guys are going to sit out? How many other guys are going to have a message?”