After President Trump’s ‘divisive’ comments, why the Bears locked arms during the national anthem

After President Trump’s ‘divisive’ comments, why the Bears locked arms during the national anthem

President Trump forced every NFL team to respond following comments over the weekend, both on Twitter and at a rally in Alabama, that any NFL player who takes a knee in protest during the national anthem is a “son of a bitch” who should be “fired." Bears chairman George McCaskey and coach John Fox spoke to their team on Saturday and delivered a message that players said was well-received. 

Players felt like the team’s ownership, management and coaching staff had their back, and they determined their response to — as defensive end Akiem Hicks said — “divisive rhetoric” would be to lock arms as a team during the national anthem on Sunday. The Bears saw President Trump’s comments as an attempt to divide them and the rest of the players in the league, so the message they wanted to send was one of unity. 

“To tell us that we don’t have the freedom to speak and to stand on whatever platform that we feel like and voice our opinions, and we have great respect for our country, great respect for the flag, great respect for the anthem — we also want to show that we’re unified,” Hicks said. “And I think that was the best way to show that. We hold all those things dear and we are American citizens.”

This issue has been boiling ever since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who remains unsigned — was the first to kneel during the national anthem last year in protest of police brutality and social injustice in the United States. Those beliefs are why Kaepernick began peacefully protesting, but the debate about athletes kneeling during the anthem can sometimes lose sight of that, said linebacker Danny Trevathan. 

“It gets lost in (translation),” Trevathan, who played a big role in what the Bears decided to do Sunday, said. “I know a lot of people (talked) about the flag, which I’m real big on it, but I really understand the way he attacked it. 

“He believed in something. He stood for that. And that’s what America’s built on, guys standing up for a great cause. And I feel like, you know, a lot of people overlook that but for somebody great like that to say something to that, he must’ve felt some way. But I feel like he did the right thing. And this team came together and we had his back, and we stood up for a great cause today.”

Added Trevathan about the Bears' actions on Sunday: “I feel like we were together. Together we can’t fall. I feel like I was doing the right thing. I feel like my two daughters, they would be proud of me. I took a stand for what I believed in. 

“And you know, I can’t stand around and let stuff like that happen. Because then you feel pity for yourself, you’ll be like, next time, I’m going to do something, next time — nah, man. Now is the time to stand up and be that right, that right person in the right situation. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. You have to stand up for what’s right.”

Whatever the Bears did on Sunday, the point was to do it as a unified team — a team of players of different ethnicities and backgrounds from different regions of the country. 

“We love each other, we’re empathetic for each others’ issues,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said. “This team does a great job of putting ourselves in others’ shoes. And it’s not something that’s hush-hush, we talk about it in the locker room. We have guys who are open about how they feel, and we have guys that are respectful of other people’s opinions. 

“I feel like today showed that we are a unit, a cohesive unit. That’s what we wanted to convey today. We didn’t want to show any disrespect towards the military, the flag. But there are obviously issues going on in our country, and I think we did the right thing today. Going forward, just trying to make this place a better world to live in.”

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Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score), Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel. Quenton Nelson works out at Notre Dame’s pro day. If he’s still on the board at 8, should the Bears take him? Plus the panel talks about the Cubs outfield heading into 2018 and if it’s time to shut down both Jonathan Toews and Lauri Markkanen.

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

USA Today

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Quenton Nelson hasn’t met with the Bears yet during this pre-draft process, and doesn’t have a local visit scheduled with them. But maybe that’s not too surprising.

Harry Hiestand has better intel on him than anyone else after coaching him for the past four years at Notre Dame, after all. 

“Coach Hiestand, he’s known me since I was an immature freshman that wasn’t good at football, until now being a lot more mature and responsible and doing the right thing and a good football player,” Nelson said. “He knows everything about me.”

Could part of that intel provided by Hiestand be that Nelson has the ability to eventually play tackle?

Nelson might be the closest to a “sure thing” prospect in this year’s draft, with his reams of dominant film and off-the-charts work ethic projecting him as an All-Pro for years to come. But that he plays guard is a stumbling block, given interior positions generally don’t hold as much value as tackles in the NFL.

So here’s a potential scenario for the Bears: They draft Nelson at No. 8 — which is still "high" for a guard — and plug him at left guard in 2018. They then, under the careful watch of Hiestand, slide him to tackle in 2019. 

“I’m pretty convinced that Q could do whatever he sets his mind to,” Mike McGlinchey, a first-round tackle in his own right who's Nelson’s ex-Irish teammate and workout buddy, said. “If that’s what teams want him to play, I’m sure he’ll take that head on and perform to the best of his ability.” 

Nelson, to his credit, is confident he could make the switch to tackle (he was recruited by Hiestand as a tackle, and began his college career backing up Zack Martin at tackle). He said the only team that’s asked him about it so far is the Cincinnati Bengals, though it’s unlikely he’ll still be on the board when they pick at No. 21. 

But maybe the thought of guards being significantly less valuable than tackles is slowly becoming antiquated in today’s NFL. Four of the top 10 highest paid offensive linemen, by total contract value, are interior linemen. Three of the top 10 offensive linemen with the most guaranteed money are guards, led by Andrew Norwell, who inked a five-year, $66.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month with $30 million guaranteed at signing. Only one offensive lineman — Nate Solder, who just signed with the New York Giants — is guaranteed more money. 

Following the money, if teams are willing to splash down loads of cash for the best guards in the league, a team may be willing to spend a top-10 pick on a guard who could immediately be among the best at his position in the NFL. Or the calculation for whatever team drafts him may be this: Would you rather have him as a perennial All-Pro guard or "merely" a solid-to-good tackle? 

Regardless of where he ends up playing, though, Nelson is one of those supremely-talented players who takes the right approach to his craft — in other words, one of those guys you just want to get in your building. And while Nelson said he’d love to play for his hometown New York Giants — who could be interested in him with the No. 2 pick — he said getting to link back up with Hiestand would be an incredible opportunity, too. 

“That would be amazing to play for him,” Nelson said. “He’s the one that made me into the player I am today. I wouldn’t be here without him or be in any conversations in the draft without him, so it would mean a lot to play for him again.”