On Sunday, Carolina’s Julius Peppers was the lone Panther to demonstrate during the national anthem as a wave of similar protests happened across the league.
Peppers stood in the locker room as the anthem played, re-joining his teammates on the sideline when it ended. He said after the game that his demonstration was in direct condemnation of the remarks President Donald Trump made about players who protest by kneeling during the anthem, and also in opposition to racial inequality.
Rivera said on Sunday night after the game that he had spoken to the team about Trump’s remarks as plans for protests circulated among players around the league.
“I said I really think that what we need to do is if we are going to be united we need to all stand, look at the flag, be at attention, feet at ten and two, left hand down at our sides, right hand on our heart and we need to look at the flag and we need to listen to the national anthem,” he said. “We need to think and envision an America that we believe in that’s free from injustice, that’s free from bigotry, free from prejudice and then when you guys ask me, we tell you that. We tell you that we believe in America, we support our military, we support our first responders, and we most certainly do not believe in racism and bigotry and we want to see that out of this country. That’s what I told them. I told them that’s how I feel and I have my personal reasons to feel that way.”
On Monday, he expanded on those comments, Peppers’ demonstration, and the protests around the NFL.
On his response to the league-wide protests
I don’t want to get into it. I know how I feel about it. I just think it’s one of those things, it has to continue the way it is. I do believe that there are some things that need to be addressed. Hopefully we can find the right forum to address it.
On what he means by “things need to be addressed.”
Exactly that. What’s being done right now.
Did he go back and watch the protests around the league?
Yes. There were a lot of things that went on. It’s a very difficult situation right now and I think it’s very unfair to put so much on these young men.
You were very clear about your feelings on it yesterday. Did you like or appreciate the way in which Julius handled it?
Yes. I have a tremendous amount of respect for how he did it. I think he was trying to find a way to do it the right way. I think he was trying to make sure that everybody understood that he has a tremendous amount of respect for what the flag stands for, for the military personnel and for the first responders. And I know he really battled with that. He did what he thought was right and I supported him on that.
On finding ways to respond to this
It’s hard. There are a lot of things that can be done and I just hope it’s done in the right way, in the right fashion and in the right forum. I just hope that the people understand what these young men are going through. I think you have to be very careful and very specific. I think you have to understand the narrative on this.
To me, I don’t think this has anything to do with disrespect for the military or disrespect for the first responders. I think this is about the rights and freedoms that people have, that people deserve. I think these players want to stand up against bigotry and injustice, and a lot of the bad things that are going on. I think that they deserve to have the right forum and have it put in the right context for them.
But I think everybody has to understand, these young men, they believe in and support the military and what they all stand for, and the first responders. And I just hope that people don’t try to say that when a young man does what he does, that it’s disrespecting those people, because they’re not. They’re just trying to bring awareness to the social injustices and inequities right now. I think we all feel that way. At least I know I do. But you know, I’m going to do it my way and that’s just the way I look at it.
On sports getting pulled into politics
I think that’s tough. I think that’s tough on the young men because they have to make their own decisions and decide what’s best for them. That’s a heck of a point, is that they have to be put in a situation where they have to be front and center.
I’ve always asked the question, how come you don’t see it in any other industry? How come we don’t see a newscaster, just before he does the 5 o’clock report, say ‘Excuse me’ and step over and take a knee for a minute? Or a bank teller say, ‘Before I cash your check, let me take a knee?’
So much is being put on these young men. People say, ‘Oh, it’s because they’re in the limelight.’ It doesn’t matter. If you are going to take a stand, why won’t you take a stand? If you agree and support them, why won’t you agree and support them? I just think it’s so unfair right now that you ask so much of these young men that are put in a very difficult situation. I just think these young men deserve a little bit more support as well.