BOSTON (CBS) — Last week, the NFL announced a new policy for players during the performance of the national anthem prior to games. Players can choose to stay in the locker room if they want, but if they are on the field during the anthem, they must stand. If they take a knee, their team will be fined.
The new policy came after the 2017 season saw many players taking knees during the anthem — at first to support Colin Kaepernick’s protest regarding police brutality against black men in America, but later in response to comments from President Donald Trump.
Longtime Patriots defensive captain Devin McCourty was one of several Patriots who kneeled during the anthem prior to the team’s game against Houston last year. On Thursday, while talking with the media following an OTA practice at Gillette Stadium, he was asked for his thoughts on the new policy.
His one-word answer summed up his thoughts: “Dumb.”
“I just don’t think that was the right way to try to lay the hammer down,” McCourty said, according to MassLive. “The NFL is a group where you have owners and players, but it can work together, you know what I mean? We’ll see how that works out, plays itself out.”
McCourty is hardly the only NFL player to speak out against the policy. Seattle’s Doug Baldwin referred to Trump as “an idiot, plain and simple” when discussing the policy last week, the always-outspoken former Patriot and current Eagle Chris Long criticized owners for only bowing to business demands, while fellow outspoken Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins referred to the policy as a way for the NFL to stifle voices who seek to speak out against racial inequality.
“Quite frankly, guys in our league don’t like being told what to do, what they can and can’t do,” Jenkins said this week. “We don’t have this type of policies for the other causes we support, whether it be our ‘Salute to Service,’ or breast cancer awareness, or anything else. It’s just when you start talking about black folks, quite frankly. It’s disheartening, but we’ll continue to be creative.”
For the Patriots, kneeling during the anthem last year was a brief matter. Several Patriots took a knee during the aforementioned Houston game in late September, which came just days after Trump suggested that NFL owners should say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field” if any player took a knee during the anthem. Despite in-depth explanations from players like Brandin Cooks, the issue was quite divisive. Former Patriot Matt Light said, “It’s the first time I’ve ever been ashamed to be a Patriot. And I promise you I’m not the only one.”
Head coach Bill Belichick, who’s always maintained a deep level of respect and appreciation for the armed services, issued a statement which said he’d be keeping his opinions private while working to do “what’s best” for the team.
Owner Robert Kraft, on the other hand, outwardly supported players’ rights to protest.
“The greatest enemy in sport is division from within,” Kraft said in October. “And I personally feel it’s very important to respect our flag and our anthem. But I also respect the right of people in this country to make statements or protests peacefully, in a way that’s appropriate to them.”