Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Gerald McCoy, speaking on Adam Schefter’s Know Them From Adam podcast, said he thinks there might “be an uproar” if NFL players are forced to stand for the national anthem.
“I don’t think guys are gonna like it,” McCoy said, when asked about the possible reaction from players. “I think it’s gonna be an uproar if that is to happen because you’re basically taking away a constitutional right to freedom of speech. If guys wanna have a, I guess you would call it a peaceful protest, I don’t think it’s right to take that away.”
McCoy, an eight-year veteran and one of the Bucs’ defensive captains, said he does not plan on kneeling during the anthem.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear in a letter sent Tuesday to all 32 teams that he wants players to stand during the anthem. He did not provide specifics about how he intends to ensure it, but he wrote that it would “include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues.”
The issue will be discussed during the NFL’s regularly scheduled fall meetings in New York next week.
President Donald Trump, who said last month that NFL owners should “fire” players who kneel during the anthem, tweeted early Wednesday morning:
It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem-RESPECT OUR COUNTRY
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
The NFL issued a statement later Wednesday morning, perhaps in response to Trump’s tweet, attempting to clarify Goodell’s “position” on the issue.
“Commentary this morning about the Commissioner’s position on the Anthem is not accurate,” the league’s statement said. “As we said yesterday, there will be a discussion of these issues at the owners meeting next week. The NFL is doing the hard work of trying to move from protest to progress, working to bring people together. Commissioner Goodell spent yesterday with Miami Dolphins players, law enforcement and community leaders witnessing first-hand the outstanding work our players and clubs are doing to strengthen their communities. Players from around the league will be in New York next week to meet with owners to continue our work together.”
McCoy made his comments after Goodell’s memo Tuesday was widely circulated.
“But if you take that away from them, there’s gonna be an uproar. It’s just gonna happen, because now it’s just like you have a voice at one point, but then you don’t at this point. And, that’s our right … it’s a constitutional right that we have, and if you take that away, I don’t think people are gonna take too kindly to it.”
The Buccaneers, as of Wednesday morning, have not declared a specific rule or policy regarding the anthem.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday that any Cowboys player who disrespects the flag will not play. The Dolphins also implemented a new policy that players on the field or sideline must stand during the anthem, although they also have the option of remaining in the locker room or the tunnel until the anthem is finished.
He did say, however, that when the NFLPA responds to this, the message will be clear.
“The message will be put out,” Quin said. “The message, it will be out. Clearly.”
“I will say — and this is my only comment on it — the oldest trick in the book is divide and conquer,” Smith said. “So I think the people, the outside forces that be have done a great job of coming in and putting those lines and barriers there to make it a conflict. I think it’s being made to be conflict when it’s not the case. But again it’s to divide and conquer, so oldest trick in the book.”
ESPN’s Michael DiRocco, Michael Rothstein and Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.