Rishard Matthews won’t let the national anthem protests go easily. On Thursday, the Titans wide receiver told WSMV’s Matt Parker on Twitter that he would “be done playing football” if the NFL passed a new rule penalizing players for not standing during the anthem.
Matthews has since deleted the tweet, but WSMV grabbed a screenshot.
That answers a question that has been on plenty of minds during this whole controversy. How far will these players go to stand up for what they believe in?
Critics of the protests, which are and always have been directed toward social injustice, have claimed players are disrespecting the flag, the anthem and the military by not standing. Matthews’ father served 23 years in the Marines, and his brother died as a Marine in Afghanistan two years ago. Matthews had not joined the protest out of respect for his late brother, but after President Donald Trump made inflammatory statements that “son of a bitch” NFL players should be fired for kneeling or staying in the locker room during the anthem, Matthews changed course and thought his brother would agree with the protests.
Here’s what he previously told ESPN about his decision:
“I’m tired of hearing, ‘Stick to sports.’ It comes down to right and wrong in this world,” Matthews told ESPN last month. “If you see wrong and don’t say anything, that’s wrong. As minorities, what do you want to happen before we say anything? They tried to have a silent protest, and look what happened. It’s your right to stand or sit down. You have that right, that freedom of speech, and you’re not allowing that to happen.”
For their Week 3 game against the Seahawks, the entire Titans team stayed in the locker room during the anthem. While the team returned to the field and stood for the anthem the last two weeks, Matthews remained alone in the locker room.
Last week, Vice President Mike Pence made an ironic publicity stunt, using the national anthem as his platform to protest against NFL players using the national anthem as their platform to protest. Then Trump continued to rile things up by claiming the NFL has demanded its players stand for the anthem this week, which is not true.
It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem-RESPECT OUR COUNTRY
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017
The NFL promptly released a statement that Trump was full of crap, and the league’s previous memo was simply reiterating current NFL policies, which recommend but do not require that players stand.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 11, 2017
We’ll see what steps the NFL takes to “move from protest to progress,” but hopefully they continue letting players express themselves and don’t force Matthews into a real-life decision between his values and his career.