WSU's Mike Leach said he's unsure of what is being protested, while UW's Chris Petersen said he encourages dialogue. WSU's football players had an array of views on the situation
The wave of protests by NFL players after President Donald Trump said Friday that he thought NFL owners should cut any players who did not stand for the national anthem has drawn the attention of college football players.
When asked if he had an opinion on the many NFL players who did not stand for the national anthem over the weekend, Washington State linebacker Isaac Dotson provided a tactful but clear answer.
“I think those guys are standing up for what they believe in, they should have the right to do that,” said Dotson, a senior. “I can’t quite say I agree with what the President had to say about it, and obviously we’re seeing the backlash that’s come from some of what he’s had to say. But that’s a little bit out of my arena. I’m just focused on us right now.”
Running back Jamal Morrow also took a similar stance.
“I definitely agree with their protests. They have the right to,” Morrow said. “I mean, you’re entitled to your own opinion and sometimes you’ve got to do what’s right and it’s something bigger than football. … They’re looking at it as a bigger than football kind of thing and protesting for the right things they believe in.”
Offensive tackle Cole Madison took a different view.
“This is just my personal opinion. I’ve got the flag on my shoulder right now, I’ve got a tattoo so that pretty much explains that question,” Madison said. “People have their voice and their opinions but I’d never do anything like that. I just love my country too much.”
WSU coach Mike Leach, who stumped for Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign, said he had not addressed the NFL players’ protest with his team in any way.
“First of all, we’re in the locker room during the anthem, we’re together as a team,” Leach said. “To me it’s not real clear what’s being protested – I haven’t heard a clear articulation of what’s protested or objected to. Me personally I’m proud of this country and would stand for the anthem and respect the flag. But with that said, I don’t know exactly what they’re objecting to.”
When told that the president had voiced the opinion that NFL players who don’t stand for the flag should be fired from their jobs, Leach said, “That’s not exactly what was said, and I still don’t understand what that has to do with the flag.”
UW coach Chris Petersen was asked a similar question: “Have your players talked about the protests happening in the NFL?”
“Like I said, we usually talk a lot about those type of topics. We haven’t talked about what has gone on in the NFL because it’s just gone on, and we’re not out for the national anthem,” Petersen said. “Our players know, like, just like everybody else in the country, in terms of the stuff that’s going on right now. (We’re) very concerned and just like everybody else, everybody else is kind of going, ‘Wow.'”
When asked if the UW players have approached him to request any sort gesture about their pre-game rituals, Petersen said: “I would always listen to those guys. It seems like every coach is doing the same thing. People care about what’s going on in the country, not alone just in sports. I think it’s kind of interesting how strongly it’s — trickled is not the right word — but how it’s come into football, is the center of all this stuff.”
“Hey, if it can help us change and grow and get better, awesome,” Petersen said.
UW players are not made available to the media until Tuesdays of game week.
Here’s a look at what other Pac-12 football coaches had to say about whether they addressed the NFL protests with their teams:
Oregon coach Willie Taggart:
USC coach Clay Helton
Arizona State coach Todd Graham:
Seattle Times reporter Adam Jude contributed to this report