Detroit — The NFL’s national anthem debate is no closer to being resolved than when former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the 2016 preseason. After policy changes were discussed and ultimately tabling during March’s league meetings, it’s possible the discussions will resume when the owners meet again next week.
A number of solutions have been proposed to address the divisive issue, including having players remain in the locker rooms until the conclusion of the anthem. Detroit Lions offensive lineman T.J. Lang is understanding of all sides on this issue, but doesn’t have an opinion on how the NFL should address it.
“Obviously, that’s a little bit of a touchy subject,” Lang said. “I’m always going to stand for the national anthem. That’s just me. I can’t really speak for anybody else. I understand the reasons why some guys choose not to and that’s fine.
“(What the league decides) is really above my pay grade,” he said. “Whatever they decide to do, that’s really none of my business. I guess I’m going to keep standing.”
Lang’s teammate Jarrad Davis said he also intends to always stand and doesn’t see a need to change the current setup.
“It’s been happening a certain way for so long,” Davis said. “Why change it up? I know a lot of guys are going to do what they want to do, to express themselves. At the end of the day, I love this country, I love being here and I love playing ball.”
Kaepernick first took a knee in 2016 to protest what he believed was the oppression of minorities in the United States. Over time, multiple players joined Kaepernick, drawing the ire of those who believed using the anthem was disrespectful to the country and its military.
The issue peaked last September when president Donald Trump criticized the protests, arguing the players who take part should be fired. There was a mass response across the league the following week. In Detroit, the team locked arms during the ensuing anthem and several players took a knee for the first time.
It was later reported that owner Martha Ford asked the players not to kneel. It wasn’t a mandate, but in return, she committed to pledging significant funds to charities addressing social issues in the spirit of the anthem protests.
“I think it’s ultimately going to be players’ choice,” Lang said. “I think we’re starting to find out not a lot of owners like that.”
As for Kaepernick, he wasn’t able to find another team after he opted out of his contract at the end of the 2016 season. He’s currently embroiled in a collusion case against the league.
The team held its sixth annual Taste of the Lions event at Ford Field Wednesday night, where fans could meet the players and sample fare from more than two dozen local restaurants.
The event drew more than 2,000 fans and raised approximately $120,000 for Eastern Market’s community programs. The Lions also partner with Eastern Market during the season for Meet Up and Eat Up, where players teach local students about nutrition and the accessibility of local fruits and vegetables in the city.