Tennessee Titans receiver Rishard Matthews was one of many NFL players who felt personally attacked by President Donald Trump’s comments against the NFL and its protesting players, most notably the “son of a bitch” reference, and Matthews plans to use his platform to advance the protest.
“I plan to kneel until the president apologizes for the comments that he made because I felt like those were very disrespectful comments that he made,” Matthews said on ESPN’s NFL Live Tuesday. “The league is made up of I think over 70 percent of African-Americans so the people that would be kneeling for this cause would be African-Americans. To keep it honest, he was calling a lot of us and he was calling me an S.O.B. and that’s not OK and very disrespectful. So, I plan to kneel until the president apologizes.”
President Trump was asked about his issue with the NFL at the White House on Tuesday and said he was “ashamed of what was taking place” with players kneeling during the national anthem.
“I wasn’t preoccupied with the NFL, I was ashamed of what was taking place,” he said, adding that “the NFL situation is a very important situation.”
“Many people have died, many people have been horribly injured and they were fighting for our country, our flag, our national anthem, and for people to disrespect that by kneeling during the playing of our national anthem I think is disgraceful,” he said.
Matthews has always had a stance against racial inequality and police brutality, but he grew up a military brat whose brother died serving in Afghanistan. His dad served for 23 years. He felt conflicted by the use of the anthem as a vehicle for the protest, but he said Sunday night his stance shifted as it became more apparent to him that this message was more important than the method.
“I’m tired of hearing stick to sports. It comes down to right and wrong in this world,” Matthews said Sunday. “If you see wrong and don’t say anything that’s wrong. As minorities, what do you want to happen before we say anything? They tried to have a silent protest and look what happened. It’s your right to stand or sit down. You have that right, that freedom of speech, and you’re not allowing that to happen.”
“We’re not ragdogs. We’re people just like you.”
After Sunday’s game, Matthews said he would have knelt during the anthem if the Titans had not remained in the locker room during the song. He noted that players, like himself, can be pro-military, but use their platform to protest these issues during the anthem. Matthews is challenging those who attack protesting players to answer why they can’t see that view as well.
The Titans leadership council, through joint communication via group text with the Seahawks leadership, decided remaining inside during the anthem Sunday was the best method toward unity. The Titans and Seahawks supported their decisions.
Colin Kaepernick began this stance over a year ago, but protest by NFL players reached a peak Sunday. Matthews hopes this isn’t a one-week deal across the NFL.
“Moving forward, I don’t want this to be a publicity stunt,” Matthews said. “I don’t want to take away from what the whole protest is about, which is oppression, police brutality and inequality in this country. I fully stand with my brother Kaep and I plan to continue to do that.”
Matthews raised a right fist, which has been recognized as a symbol for solidarity against racial injustice, after his 55-yard touchdown against the Seahawks. Before the game, Matthews wore cleats that read “we are one” and “we all bleed the same.”