Against the backdrop of the NFL’s annual “Salute to Service” week – where teams and players pay respect to United States military personnel league-wide – Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt explained his position on the recent trend of players making demonstrations during the pre-game national anthem, which is in objection to what they see as the oppression of African-Americans and police brutality.
Some players – led by San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick – have taken a knee during the anthem, while Chiefs second-year cornerback Marcus Peters raised his fist during the anthem prior to the home opener against the San Diego Chargers on Sept. 11.
“I won’t address Marcus specifically, but let me say, I do think the right thing is for all the players and coaches on the sideline to stand during the national anthem and pay the respect that our flag and the people who have given their life for it deserve,” Hunt said. “At the same time, I understand we have players who are concerned about racial relations in this country, which is a very important subject. I just don’t believe that the national anthem is really the right place to voice your displeasure with that.”
Hunt was then asked directly if he has passed down any directives, or anything similar, requiring players not to make demonstrations during the anthem. Since the season opener, Peters has not raised his fist during the anthem, preferring to stand or mill about near the bench near a handful of teammates while others line the sideline with their hands over their hearts.
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“No, I haven’t,” Hunt said. “But for a couple years now, Coach Reid and the rest of the leadership of the team have spoken to the coaches and the team about the importance of standing during the national anthem. It’s not something that’s new this year. It’s something we’ve been focusing on for a couple of years.”
So what would he do if a player were to do it again?
“It’s not something where I’ve spoken specifically to the players or any specific player about it,” Hunt said. “But the entire teams know that our desire is for them to stand during the national anthem.”
After the season opener, Peters said “Coach” had told him it was OK to express his feelings during the anthem. It was unclear if he meant Andy Reid or an assistant, though Reid said of Peters after the game: “He just wants what is right, like we all do. I think that’s the important thing. What the players are doing right now is important. Let’s just all get along and that would be a beautiful thing.”
At the time of Peters’ demonstration, the team released a statement saying it would continue to have conversations, educate themselves and others on social issues and work with local law enforcement officials and leaders to make an impact on the Kansas City community.
On Sunday, Hunt said that has occurred.
“The team has facilitated some conversations between law enforcement and the team, and I think some of the players have taken it another step and done some things on their own,” Hunt said. “It is something that is ongoing and is something that won’t just be a 2016 issue for the Chiefs. It’s something that we’ll carry forward.”
Hunt also made it clear that a letter that circulated on Facebook last month – which attributed comments to Hunt demanding players stand for the anthem – was completely made up. Earlier versions of the same letter were attributed to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, according to the Dallas Morning News.
“I have heard about it,” Hunt said. “It was an internet hoax.”