Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who last year became a U.S. citizen, said he strongly disagrees with President Donald Trump’s comments and tweets the past few days that were critical of NFL and NBA players. “Nothing positive comes from it, really,” Frei said.
Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei has put plenty of thought into what it takes to be a United States citizen.
The Swiss-born Frei climbed through a mountain of legal paperwork and plenty of self-reflection before earning his citizenship at a ceremony last July. And Frei has some choice words for President Donald Trump and others who believe athletes should be “fired’’ if they don’t stand while the national anthem is played before their games.
“It was a struggle for me to actually become a citizen,” Frei said Monday. “Because on one side you can argue, ‘Well, it seems like a lot of people don’t think the way you think’. And on the other side — and ultimately what I decided — was, that I think a lot of Americans are good people, are inclusive, are open and are respectful. And maybe I have a platform to show that the majority of Americans think the way that I do.
“That’s how I viewed it, and that’s why I became a citizen,’’ he added. “But first and foremost, it’s a huge honor. … I don’t think these players are disrespecting the flag, really. They’re just trying to bring awareness to (racial and social-injustice issues) in a way that gets noticed.”
As for Trump over the weekend calling for athletes — NFL players, in particular — to be fired if they refuse to stand, Frei didn’t mince words.
“I strongly disagree with him even bringing it up,” Frei said. “I think there are enough important topics for him to focus on right now with the relief (efforts) in Puerto Rico. That needs to be addressed. North Korea. … There are so many things that he can put his energy towards and he picks to be divisive and negative about people who are exercising their rights to protest and speak their mind.
“Nothing positive comes from it, really.”
Frei said Trump “needs to look at himself, regardless of what his views are and choose to be our leader.”
The Sounders, winless in their past five matches, take on the first-place Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday night at CenturyLink Field. Frei said the team has not discussed any anthem protest, but he’s sure that will happen at some point.
“It has to be done, not as a fashionable, ‘Here’s a hype train, let’s hop on it,’ ” Frei said. “It has to be done with the right intentions. Whichever team does that, or whichever athlete or prominent person does that.”
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said he stands by any player who chooses not to stand.
“I mean, it’s a free country, it’s freedom of speech,” he said. “Now, I respect the flag — a lot. And if any of my players were strong enough in an opinion that they wanted to do something, I would say that it’s their choice. I would support them. I think here in Seattle and our club, we’ve always been a club that takes care of our own.
“I don’t want to ramble on about politics,” he added. “I just wish the president would worry about earthquakes or floods, or the budget. You know? That would be my priority as a citizen of the United States.”
Trump over the weekend rescinded a White House invitation to the NBA-champion Golden State Warriors after star Stephen Curry told reporters he would vote not to go because of the president’s divisiveness.
The Sounders have yet to be invited to the White House after winning the MLS Cup last December. Other sports league champions have received such invites, including the 2015 MLS Cup-winning Portland Timbers. Frei said Sounders players had discussed among themselves what they’d do with such an invite but shelved those conversations early when it became clear none was forthcoming.
“I was just about to tweet after the whole Steph Curry thing happened,” Frei joked Monday. “I was about to tell him ‘Hey, at least you guys got a semi invite. We didn’t even get an invite.’ ”