Ever since Colin Kaepernick started the movement of protests during the national anthem in the National Football League last season, it has become a hot button issue for many around the league. We've seen an increasing amount of players show some sign of a protest, and as of Thursday, one member of the Buffalo Bills decided to do the same.
Reserve offensive lineman Cameron Jefferson raised his fist in the air during the anthem ahead of the Bills' preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles -- a move he discussed at length with Matthew Fairburn of NYUpstate.com.
Even still, this is the first time new Bills head coach Sean McDermott has had to not only deal with as the leader of the team, but to publicly comment on when asked by the media. McDermott offered his thoughts, and to not misrepresent any of his points, here is what the Bills head coach said in full:
Q: Sean, how did you feel about Cameron Jefferson raising his fist during the national anthem on Thursday night?
A: Cam and I spoke about it. We spoke about it yesterday and then we talked about it as a team today. What I want all of our players to understand is that we are going to support them, number one. Everyone obviously has their view on things and I think the key word here is respect. We respect Cam’s opinion. We respect and acknowledge what’s going on, and it’s important that we can communicate and a big part of communication is listening and I did a lot of listening yesterday. That was very healthy. We had a good conversation this morning as a team about it, and I thought it was a healthy meeting and conversation. I think that, again, the key word in all of this is respect. Respect this situation, respect the communication end of things moving forward, and then respect the process of what’s going on in this country and this world.
Q: Who initiated that conversation?
A: I did.
A: You always want to know, with your players, what’s going on in their lives. I want to know, just like you guys have detailed in great length how we share in our morning meetings and the stories behind the individuals on this football team. As we continue to build this football team, you’ve heard me say before that we’re building this thing around the love for one another. This, to me, is a great example of that. I want to know what’s going on in our players’ lives and let them know that we support them and we care about them as people off the field and then as players on the field.
Q: Going forward, how do you feel about players protesting the anthem and do you expect more players to follow suit with what Cam did?
A: Well like I said, it all, to me, comes down to respect. When a player, or anyone in this case, takes an initiative to make a stand for something if it’s ethical, I want them to know that I’m going to support them and we’re going to support them. Again, it gets down to the respect word and we respect what’s going on, we respect, in this case, Cam’s decision, and then the process that’s going on around all of us. We acknowledge it. I think that’s healthy when you do that. That’s part of real life.