BOSTON (CBS) — Following Sunday’s win over the Texans, Patriots head coach opted to not answer a question about his thoughts regarding the silent protest taken by several members of his team, saying, “I’ll deal with that later.”
On Monday afternoon, the coach released a statement, in which he neither endorsed nor condemned the players on his team who took a knee during the national anthem.
“I have immense respect and admiration for our players, for how they conduct themselves professionally as New England Patriots and for how they represent themselves, their families and community as men,” Belichick said. “I have coached football for over four decades and one of the greatest things about being in this environment is the diversity of people, backgrounds, viewpoints and relationships we are fortunate to experience. As with any large group of people, there is a variety of perspectives and opinions on many topics. Discussions occur between myself, individual players, groups and the entire team on an ongoing basis. They concern the team and other issues surrounding the team. I am going to keep the specifics of those conversations private.
“I will do what I feel is best for the team in my role as head coach and collectively, we will work together to find the best way to proceed.”
The protests — which came after President Donald Trump advocated for any football player kneeling during the anthem to be fired — immediately caused controversy, with loud boos raining down on the field when Patriots players took a knee on the sideline. Many of the players explained their reasoning after the game, though a national debate has nevertheless continued.
Belichick has always displayed a deep appreciation for the U.S. military, as he grew up at the Naval Academy, where his father was a scout for the football team. Just this year, Belichick narrated a World War II documentary.
The protesting players made it clear — Brandin Cooks, Devin McCourty, and Duron Harmon, in particular — that the protest in no way was a show of disrespect to the armed forces. Still, many Americans who believe the flag and the military go hand in hand do not believe the two can be separated.