BOSTON (CBS) — A day after he told the Boston Herald he was “ashamed” to see members of his old team kneeling during the national anthem, former New England Patriots lineman Matt Light further criticized Pats owner Robert Kraft, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and veteran Patriots safety and team captain Devin McCourty over the protest.
“I feel like it’s the first time I’ve ever felt disappointed in this team,” Light told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mary Blake. “That’s not the Patriot Way, it’s never been the Patriot Way.”
Around the league Sunday, some NFL players knelt during the anthem before games, while others linked arms or didn’t show up on the field at all, in response to President Donald Trump’s repeated comments that players who “disrespect” the flag or the nation should be fired.
“The President made some comments, and whenever he speaks there’s an immediate reaction to go against whatever he says because of the way that he says it,” Light said. “But what got lost in translation there was that something that every American should and most do agree with, and that’s that we should be standing for the national anthem.”
“I think that that’s been clouded by the Trump affect, which means everything that he says gets cast into some negative light because of how he says it a lot of times,” Light added. “But at the end of the day the President made one statement about how, as a country, we should honor and respect what the National Anthem stands for, and if you can’t stand for it, you’re wrong.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh addressed Trump’s comments Monday, saying they were “unnecessary” and only served to “continue dividing America.”
“The President should just stay out of some things,” Walsh said. “I don’t necessarily agree with people taking the knee, but it’s a free country and that’s their right. I think the fact that people do that is fine. I think the President should stay out of football … That’s not his area, stay out of sports.”
Gov. Charlie Baker also weighed in, calling Trump’s comments “un-presidential.”
“I stand for the national anthem, but it’s a free country, and people have the right to exercise their First Amendment rights here, and that’s as it should be,” Gov. Baker said. “I think the most important thing for me is, I wish the president would focus on what I like to call presidential issues–we have plenty of them to deal with–and let the players play.”
About 20 Patriots players knelt during the anthem, while others, including Tom Brady, linked arms with their teammates. Boos rang out during the protest.
Light blamed Robert Kraft’s pre-game statement in part for allowing the protests.
“Before the game, Mr. Kraft comes out with a tweet saying he supports his players, which totally ignores the fact that standing for the national anthem is the right thing to do,” Light said. “I think that morning tweet by Robert Kraft opened the door for these guys to do what they did, and maybe he knew what was going to happen and that’s why he did it, but I would have much rather seen a scenario where the head of the organization came out and said that ‘Our nation’s national anthem and the tradition of standing for the sacrifice and honor and to respect the men and women that serve this country is something I believe in strongly’.”
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick issued a statement Monday afternoon about the protests, saying he has “immense respect and admiration for our players.”
“As with any large group of people, there is a variety of perspectives and opinions on many topics,” the statement read. “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.”
Team captain Devin McCourty told reporters after the game that those who took a knee hoped fans would see it as a message of unity, not a sign of disrespect to the military or flag. But Light points out that McCourty knew people were going to see the protest as disrespectful.
“Devin McCourty admitted that he knew it was going to be a problem, yet he chose not to find another outlet to voice his frustrations and his concerns and standing up for the issues that he feels need to be talked about,” Light said. “Instead of talking about them, he and a lot of the other players remained silent on what they consider to be a major problem in this country, and I would just encourage them that, if they want to really do something positive, it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than disrespecting our nation.”
Light said it would have made more sense for them to find a different way to make people aware of issues like inequality and police brutality, because many–including those who Light was watching the game with–didn’t understand the message.
“I’m standing in the stadium in a luxury box with a Seal Team 6 member and the widow of a Seal Team 6 member and a 91-year-old WWII vet,” said Light. “If you think that they understood the actions of the players that day, you’re wrong. They did not. It was not okay for them and it’s not okay for the millions of other men and women that serve this country.”
He said there were many issues he wanted to speak out about during his 11-year NFL career, but he didn’t do so.
Fans at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro were divided on the issue Monday.
“I think they have the right to do whatever they want, personally,” one fan told WBZ-TV’s Nick Giovanni.
“It’s about the national anthem, it’s about the game, it’s not about the politics,” said another.
One man said he believed that, despite the negative attention, there was potential for something positive.
“If there’s a problem, we gotta fix it,” another fan said. “But we gotta go about it the right way. You got people’s attention, maybe we can make amends, make something good out of this now.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mary Blake reports