NFL players’ protests of social injustice -- in the form of kneeling during the national anthem before games -- quickly became a hot-button issue among Americans, and President Donald Trump routinely mentions it at rallies across the country.
Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who first kneeled during the anthem, seems to have paid a heavy price for his protest. He hasn’t played in the league since 2016, and he reportedly has no prospects of joining a team anytime soon.
That bothers Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who recently told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole that he believes patriotism isn’t standing for the anthem. It’s doing something good for others -- which NFL players routinely do.
“That’s what drives me crazy about the uproar over the NFL players who have knelt in a fight for social justice. So many of them have given so much to their communities -- given not just money but time,” Kerr said in the latest installment of a five-part interview only available on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app. “I read a lot about Malcolm Jenkins in Philadelphia and what he’s done in his community. And Chris Long. And people like Colin Kaepernick who have given $1 million to charity.
“I’m so proud of so many athletes who are out there in their communities, knowing the power they have and the financial resources they have to make a change. That’s patriotism to me. The anthem is just kind of a symbol for that.”
Trump’s camp believes kneeling disrespects the military and the nation, while those on the other side say it’s a necessary statement to call attention to a large societal issue.
Kerr said he doesn’t care one way or another if the anthem is played at sporting events, and that he backs Kaepernick “100 percent.” But Kerr also understands why an NFL team might be hesitant to sign the quarterback, right or wrong.
“I see this incredible intersection of modern media and propaganda meets capitalism meets racism. It’s all meeting at the same time,” Kerr said. "… But I also see this entire media frenzy that surrounds it.
“And if I’m a GM of a team, I know the minute I sign Colin Kaepernick, it’s like signing Tim Tebow. Or it’s like signing, you know, one of the Ball brothers. And that’s probably a bad analogy. But it’s going to come with a storm. So even if your heart’s in the right place, and you go, ‘You know what? This is all BS,’ I want my team to be able to function. And I want to bring in a backup quarterback. But I don’t want a news conference every single day. I could see a GM going, ‘Man, I don’t really want to deal with that.’ That’s modern media. That’s modern American life.
“So all these forces come together and, unfortunately, they create a stone wall for Kaepernick and others. But they expose all these different dynamics of modern life in this country. Some of it is racism. Some of it is fake patriotism. And some of it is this mass media, this monster that needs to be fed every day. It can be overwhelming.”
To watch the full Kerr interview, download the MyTeams app, and stick around all season for complete Warriors coverage as they go for the three-peat.