Colin Kaepernick’s protests against police brutality and social injustice caused a great divide on and off the football fields this season.
Donald Trump’s offensive remarks that athletes that protested are “sons of bitches” who should be fired all but forced teams to make a statement. Many chose to stay inside the locker room during the singing of the anthem.
The team protests died down quickly, but Titans WR Rishard Matthews chose to remain in the locker room during the anthem for the remainder of the season, excluding Veteran’s Day weekend. He wanted to be sure that he was not protesting the armed forces in any way.
Once critical of Kap, his college quarterback, and other players who protested, Matthews found himself doing an about face on the subject. Raised by a Marine father, and having a brother killed in Afghanistan, Matthews realized that nationalism and patriotism are two different things.
Sickened by Trumps remarks as well as the acquittal of Philando Castile’s killer, Matthews vowed to kneel until Trump apologized. Instead, he chose to remain in the locker room.
“We’ve got to stop preaching stuff and not practicing it,” Matthews said during the season. “Liberty and justice for all — what does that really mean to you? Does it mean what it says, or are you just being a hypocrite?”
Right now, honestly, I just feel like I’m doing what’s right,” Matthews said during the season. “I feel like as a military kid, as an American, after everything that’s been happening these past few (years) and the last year alone, it’s tough for me to sit back and just accept that when the future comes, that if I were not to do anything, that I didn’t do anything. When I get older, I don’t want to look back and be like, ‘You know, that happened at this time and I just sat back and kept my mouth shut.’”
When asked if he felt the change of heart would cause any backlash from the public, he replied:
“Do I feel some kind of way about it? No. What are you going to tell me?” Matthews said. “I lived on base when 9/11 happened. I was military. My family is military. So you can’t sit there and say I don’t have respect for the military at all, when I do. I have the most respect for it, because I actually know what it’s like to experience those things…
“A lot of people question where was the flag during slavery? Where was the flag during segregation? Where was the flag when Rodney King was getting beat up? Where is the flag when people are getting shot and killed and (the police officers who shot them) are getting put on paid leave?
“I understand what the flag represents. But you can’t put that hand-in-hand with what’s going on, in my opinion. The protest is not about the flag. It’s not about the military. That’s it. That’s plain and simple.
“If it’s difficult for you, maybe you need to take a look in the mirror.”
Matthews has also pledged $75,000 to organizations in oppressed communities.