As former Tar Heels Mitchell Trubisky and Connor Barth take the field with the Chicago Bears tonight, the NFL will continue a season headlined by protests during the national anthem. Last weekend displayed the league’s largest collection of protests, which included many former Tar Heels as they reacted to President Trump’s remarks last weekend.
Most notably, Julius Peppers, who has starred in the NFL for more than a decade and will watch his two former teams play tonight, remained in the team locker room while the rest of the Carolina Panthers took the field in Charlotte last Sunday. “This wasn’t about disrespecting the military, disrespecting the flag, police, first responders – none of that,” Peppers told reporters following the game. “It was about me making a decision as a man on my two feet.
“I thought it was appropriate to stay in [the locker room during the anthem] because we know what went on this week with the comments that were made by the president,” he continued. “I felt like he attacked our brothers – my brothers in the league.” Peppers furthered his reasoning. “I know a lot of people might not understand it, a lot of people might be upset about it and that’s fine. I’m not living my life trying to make everybody happy,” he said. “I’m doing things I feel like are right, things that I believe in.
"There’s only a few times in a man’s life where you have a chance to stand up for something you believe in and make a statement,” he said. “Today, I thought that was that chance, so I took it.”
Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Robert Quinn, who played at UNC seven years after Peppers, has raised his fist during the playing of the national anthem during games since the 2016 season started. Quinn grew up in South Carolina before attending UNC, where he would become a major prospect in the 2011 NFL draft despite sitting out the 2010 season due to NCAA violations. Though Quinn’s Week 3 game occurred before Trump’s remarks, he still protested during the Thursday game’s anthem.
Zach Brown, a teammate of Quinn at UNC who plays linebacker for the Washington Redskins, took to Twitter to voice his displeasure, if not anger, at the president.
Trump stay in ur place... football have nothing to do wit u smh— Zach Brown (@ZachBrown_55) Septem ber 23, 2017
Brown also applauded the announcement that the championship basketball team would not visit the White House.
Good job unc dont go— Zach Brown (@ZachBrown_55) Septem ber 23, 2017
Former Tar Heel Brice Johnson, whose jersey hangs in the Smith Center rafters, also applauded the decision.
Detroit Lion tight end and Tar Heel standout Eric Ebron also took to Twitter, hitting the President with his take on the “Stick to Sports” mantra.
Does anyone tell trump to stick to politics, like they tell us to stick to sports? Smh.— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) September 23, 2017
Nearly every Tar Heel in the NFL made a statement with his team, as every team that played after Trump’s comments did something. Noticeably, Sylvester Williams, Da’Norris Searcy and Nazair Jones all remained in their locker rooms during the anthem with their teammates before Sunday’s matchup between the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks. Williams and Searcy both play for the Titans, whose absence during the anthem was not announced. The Seahawks, for whom Jones plays, released a statement before the game announcing they would not participate in the anthem, condemning “the injustice that has plagued people of color” in the United States. Jones took to twitter himself, retweeting several of his more outspoken teammates, such as Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, and, perhaps, calling for a stand himself.
If not now, then when?.....when it's too late ?— Nazair Jones (@nazjones90) September 24, 2017
No NFL team has a bye this week, so each team will have the opportunity to make another statement this weekend.