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Steve Kerr slams NFL’s ‘fake patriotism’ in response to new national anthem policy

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The Warriors coach was highly critical of the NFL’s new approach.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr hasn’t shied away from talking about protests in sports, and on Thursday he was asked about the NFL’s new national anthem policy which actively prevents players from protesting during the national anthem on the field.

“I think it’s just typical of the NFL. They’re just playing to their fanbase,” Kerr said. “They’re basically trying to use the anthem as fake patriotism, nationalism — scaring people. It’s idiotic, but that’s how the NFL is handling its business. And I’m proud to be in a league that understands that patriotism in America is about free speech.”

It should be noted that the NBA has its own policy on players being forced to stand during the national anthem. However, unlike the NFL it was agreed to between players and owners during collective bargaining negotiations — rather than pushed on players by the league without union involvement.

“We feel like we’re partners,” Kerr said, “players, coaches, management, league management, we feel like we’re all partners and I’m really proud of our players.”

A common theme in Kerr’s response was the concept of a singular “NFL fanbase,” with the anthem decision appealing to all football fans. The reality is far from Kerr’s generalization, with a huge swath of football fans rejecting the NFL’s decision or speaking out against it. The league’s decision definitely assuages feelings toward the NFL by a segment of the population, but the reality is that support is split down party lines and a great many stand behind the players’ right to protest.

The NBA has not had any players protest during the national anthem since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in 1996, when he was suspended and fined for not standing during the anthem. The controversy led to provisions being written into the NBA collective bargaining agreeing requiring players to stand “respectfully” during the national anthem, and was reinforced last year by commissioner Adam Silver in a letter to the league, in response to protests occurring in the NFL.

Protests, and discussion of them is not going anywhere. Leagues decide for themselves whether any response is warranted, or if players exercising their constitutional rights should continue without intervention. There will never be unanimous agreement, and Kerr isn’t wrong to criticize the NFL or how it handled the issue, but lumping all fans together, as Kerr did with NFL fans isn’t helpful to the conversation.

Steve Kerr slammed the NFL’s new national anthem policy.

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