Steve Kerr blasts the NFL's new national anthem policy, ‘it's idiotic'

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HOUSTON -- As the basketball talk subsided, a broader question came at Steve Kerr like a cold drink on a hot day, refreshing and nourishing and practically necessary.

So the Warriors coach dived in. He lit into the NFL’s latest reaction to player protests designed to shine a spotlight on social justice in America. The league announced Wednesday that it will require players on the field to stand for the national anthem or face being fined by the team.

Call it the Colin Kaepernick rule, because no one in sports more personifies that form of peaceful protest.

“I think it’s just typical of the NFL,” Kerr said Thursday after shootaround prior to Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Rockets. “They’re just playing to their fan base and they’re just basically trying to use the anthem as fake patriotism, nationalism, scaring people. It’s idiotic. But that’s how the NFL has handled its business.

“I’m proud to be in a league that understands patriotism in America is about free speech and about peacefully protesting,” he continued. “Our leadership in the NBA understands that when the NFL players were kneeling, they were kneeling to protest police brutality, to protest racial inequality. They weren’t disrespecting the flag or the military. But our president decided to make it about that, the NFL followed suit, pandered to their fan base, created this hysteria.”

Kerr’s response is not surprising. He is a progressive, often taking a stand on issues involving humanity, from social justice pursuits to campaigns promoting common-sense gun-safely laws to sexual identity/orientation rights.

The NFL’s push to demand players stand for the anthem -- but giving resisting players the latitude to remain in the locker room -- was met with both condemnation and support from around the sports world.

"We want people to be respectful of the national anthem," commissioner Roger Goodell said at an owner’s meeting in Atlanta. "We want people to stand -- that's all personnel -- and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That's something we think we owe.

“We were also very sensitive to give players choices.”

Kerr was having none of it.

“This is kind of what’s wrong with our country right now,” he said. “People in high places are trying to divide us, divide loyalties and make this about the flag, as if the flag is something other than what it really is. It’s a representation of what we’re about, which is diversity and peaceful protest and the right to free speech.

“It’s really ironic, actually, what the NFL is doing.”

It’s also ironic that on the same day the NFL announced its new policy, the Milwaukee Police Department released video of its overzealous arrest of Bucks player Sterling Brown, who was handcuffed and tasered in the wake of a parking violation.

This is the kind of behavior that inspired Kaepernick and others to kneel as the national anthem was being played.

The police department has apologized and disciplined the officers involved. The Bucks issued a statement condemning the actions of those officers. Brown plans to file a lawsuit.

"We feel like we’re partners, with players and coaches and management and league management,” Kerr said. “We feel like we’re all partners. And I’m really proud of our players around the league for being community leaders and being outspoken for good, for the change that we need.”

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