This Quarterback Notes One Group More Worthy Of The President’s Attention Than Kneeling NFL Players

"Targeting the quality of the character of guys ... I find that very alarming."

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was clearly uncomfortable.

An NFL veteran, he's earned a reputation for avoiding discussion of anything that isn't football. But on Sunday, after the Chiefs win against the San Diego Chargers, Smith couldn't help but offer a comment on the ongoing controversy around players taking a knee during the national anthem.

Smith's response came after President Donald Trump repeatedly criticized NFL players for kneeling in protest, saying the players should be fired and referring to them, collectively, as a "son of a bitch" in a speech in Alabama late last week. The protests started with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started a controversy after kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police violence last season. Despite being what league experts believe is a capable quarterback, Kaepernick hasn't been able to find a job since

"I'm talking about the comments that were made by the president, yeah," Smith said in a post-game presser. "Targeting the NFL, targeting the quality of the character of guys in this league for that very protest. I find that very alarming. This is the same guy who couldn't condemn violent neo-Nazis, but he's condemning guys that are taking a knee during the national anthem. I find that there's bigger issues out there that he should probably be worried about, except for some reason the NFL is on his mind." 



President Trump's comments have drawn a wedge between millions of Americans, some of whom respect and even appreciate the players protest against others who believe sitting or kneeling during the national anthem is a blatant sign of disrespect toward the military. But the protest was never intended to be towards the military or the flag of the United States — instead, Kaepernick and others were standing up against what they believe to be unjust police brutality against people of color. 

Supporters of the players have also pointed out both that — compared to incidents like what happened in Charlottesville — the protests should be celebrated as a peaceful way of showing dissent.  

Teresa Kaepernick, whose son was largely the impetus for the growing trend of players kneeling or locking arms during the national anthem, responded to Trump calling protesting NFL players, collectively, a "son of bitch."

"As a mom you're protective of your kid," she told CBS Sports. "I grant you he's a 29-year-old man, he doesn't need my protection, but boy, somebody insults somebody you love, and your first instinct is to really wanna just go after him."

Others pointed to a 2013 tweet from Trump, in which he criticized then-President Barack Obama for encouraging the Washington Redskins to change their name.  

Since Trump's comments on Thursday and a string of tweets blasting NFL players and owners, the league has almost unanimously come together against him. Coaches, owners, and players from several teams linked arms or knelt together in greater numbers than at any other time. Some skipped the national anthem entirely and simply stayed inside the locker room. Almost the entire Pittsburgh Steelers team did that with the exception of Alejandro Villanueva, an Afghanistan war veteran, who came out by himself for the anthem. 

Elsewhere, players wore shirts that said #ImWithKap on them in support of Kaepernick. One group, called Black0ut, is boycotting the NFL and instead using its time and money on community projects. Some New York City police officers even joined in supporting Kaepernick in mid-August by donning the #ImWithKap shirts in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Sgt. Edwin Raymond told The New York Times the issues Kaepernick were protesting existed in his own police department.

"They said he disrespected law enforcement," Raymond said. "Well, I'm law enforcement, and he didn't disrespect me."

Cover photo: Gino Santa Maria / Shutterstock.com

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