ESPN “First Take” co-host Max Kellerman said during Thursday morning’s show that the NFL injects politics “by playing the national anthem and putting pressure on you to stand for it.”
Kellerman made the statement during a segment that compared NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to world renowned boxer Muhammad Ali during a discussion with Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett.
Kellerman said that neither Ali nor Kaepernick went looking for a protest. The protest came looking for them.
“He was asked to stand for the national anthem,” Kellerman said. “You do not have to stand for the national anthem, and even if it was a rule that you did, is that Colin Kaepernick injecting politics into the NFL? No, that’s the NFL injecting politics.”
“I’m very patriotic. I stand for the national anthem proudly,” Kellerman added. “The reason I am patriotic is because you do not have to stand for the national anthem.”
Fellow “First Take” co-host Stephen A. Smith responded by discussing the public setting of the protest.
“Let’s be real about something here. There is such a thing as consequences … so you got to know what you’re sacrificing,” Smith said. “Muhammad Ali knew exactly what was going to happen to him. It appears that Colin Kaepernick did not know that.”
“If you’re Colin Kaepernick, what we have to point out is even though his intent may have been honorable because he wanted to bring attention to racial injustices and beyond taking place in this country the fact of the matter is it appears as if he had no plan,” Smith added. “And when you have no plan, there’s nothing to execute.”
Ali refused to fight in the Vietnam War because of his Muslim beliefs despite being drafted. He was arrested for committing a felony and stripped of his world title and boxing license, making him unable to box in his prime for several years. The Supreme Court eventually overturned the conviction.
Kaepernick did not stand during the national anthem for all of last season when he was a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said.