That’s the message a couple of the Titans’ star players have for any outraged fans threatening to turn their back on the team, after the Titans and Seahawks remained in the locker room during the national anthem before their game Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
They were among three NFL teams, along with the Steelers, that skipped the anthem in response to President Donald Trump’s inflammatory remarks about players who kneel to protest social inequality and police brutality.
“First off, I’m going to say this: We’re not disrespecting the military, the men and women that serve in the Army. That’s not what it’s all about,” Titans tight end Delanie Walker said. “If you look at most of the guys in here – I’ve been in the USO. I support the troops. This is not about that. It’s about equal rights, and that’s all everyone is trying to show, is that we all care about each other.
“And the fans that don’t want to come to the game? I mean, OK. Bye. I mean, if you feel that’s something, we’re disrespecting you, don’t come to the game. You don’t have to. No one’s telling you to come to the game. It’s your freedom of choice to do that.”
Titans cornerback Logan Ryan echoed the sentiment.
“That’s their choice. That’s the beauty of this country,” Ryan said. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and everyone’s opinion is equal. So right, wrong or indifferent, that’s the beauty of this country – that everyone should have equal rights and equal opinions on what they want. If they don’t want to watch, that’s their choice. That’s perfect.”
The Titans (2-1) have yet to determine how they’ll handle the national anthem before Sunday’s game against the Texans (1-2) at Houston (noon CT, CBS).
They play three of their next four games on the road, with the exception being a nationally televised “Monday Night Football” game against the Colts on Oct. 16 at Nissan Stadium.
Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews, whose father is a longtime Marine and whose brother died in Afghanistan, said he plans to kneel during the anthem until Trump apologizes for his comments made during a speech Friday in Alabama.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said.
Every team in the league responded with some form of demonstration, and the vast majority of NFL owners issued statements supporting their players’ right to protest.
“It’s unfortunate what he said. That’s our president, and for him to say the things that he said was out of line on all levels,” Titans running back DeMarco Murray said.
“It was all because of 45’s comments on Friday, obviously, or it would have never happened,” Walker said, referencing Trump.
Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and linebacker Wesley Woodyard have raised their fists above their heads after the playing of the anthem since the start of last season, after former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began protesting during the preseason.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey has said the decision to remain in the locker room Sunday, and to link arms when finally walking onto the field, was an effort to show unity as a team and should not be construed as an unpatriotic demonstration.
“We all bleed red,” Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “That’s the thing. I’m tired of dividing – different backgrounds, different religions, your skin color. I’m tired of it, man. We’re all one.”
Though some dissent is apparent.
Country music singer Jessie James Decker, the wife of Titans wide receiver Eric Decker, said her husband was not made aware of the team’s plan to skip the anthem on Sunday, in a post on social media.
“What I’ll tell you is that the decision was made from the leadership of this organization, what to do as a team on Sunday, and I respect the leadership,” Eric Decker said Wednesday.
Mularkey said he was told all players supported skipping the national anthem, and has refused to answer questions from the media about the team’s plans for the anthem in upcoming games.
“I know you have to ask, and I don’t have to answer,” Mularkey said. “Again, I’m sticking to my statement. I’m going to leave it at that. And I appreciate you not asking again.”