Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews said in September that he would kneel for the national anthem until Donald Trump apologized for statements made about protesting players. Instead, he’s stayed off the field altogether in the last two weeks and said Thursday that he would be “done with football” if players are forced to stand for the national anthem.
Matthews, 28, quickly deleted the tweet, but it was captured in a screenshot by NFL reporter Paul Kuharsky.
Significant response here from @_RMatthews, since deleted. #Titans. (Now tagging correct address.) pic.twitter.com/5bvlwpKRWx— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) October 12, 2017
On Friday, Matthews apologized for the tweet.
“Sometimes people, as you all know, tweet some ignorant things out at some moments, and that was an ignorant thing I tweeted out at that given moment. I take full responsibility. That’s why it went down [was deleted], but somebody caught me with a screen shot,” Matthews said via Kuharsky.
On Tuesday, there were reports that the NFL will discuss the possibility of adding a rule that requires players to stand during the national anthem. Trump praised the news early Wednesday morning, but then responded by saying its goal is to do “the hard work of trying to move from protest to progress.”
While Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said any player who “disrespects the flag” will not play for his team, not all owners have agreed with that stance. San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York has supported his players’ right to protest. The comments by Jones didn’t seem to go over well with a few of the Cowboys players, and he had a meeting with the team Wednesday.
With the tweet deleted, it’s hard to know how serious Matthews was about walking away from the NFL, but the receiver has been an outspoken critic of Trump for a while.
“I plan to kneel until the president apologizes for the comments that he made,” Matthews said in September of Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners should fire any “son of a bitch” who disrespects the flag. “I felt like those were very disrespectful comments that he made. The league is made up of, I think, over 70 percent African Americans, so the people who would be kneeling for this cause would be African Americans.
"To keep it honest, he was calling a lot of us, and I feel that he was calling myself, an S.O.B., and that's not OK and very disrespectful. So I plan to kneel until the president apologizes."
Trump has not apologized. In Week 3, the entire Tennessee team stayed in the locker room prior to a game against the Seattle Seahawks, before Matthews started doing it by himself.
When asked by reporters about his decision not to come out of the tunnel in Week 5, Matthews chose not to answer. But on Twitter, he’s shared plenty of thoughts on the presidency.
They Hold us Athletes to a way HIGHER standard than a lot of these people who are in charge which is mind blowing to me!— Rishard Matthews (@_RMatthews) October 10, 2017
The NFL’s discussion about the national anthem will happen next week during league meetings in New York City and will include representatives from the NFLPA, including executive director DeMaurice Smith, as well as some players yet to be named. There are still plenty of things in the way of a mandate forcing players to stand, and the strong thoughts of players like Matthews are among those obstacles.