Raiders TE Jared Cook disappointed in NFL anthem policy

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Jared Cook believes athletes can and should be role models. The Raiders tight end believes they should use their popularity and platform to impact positive change in the community, which he has done for breast cancer awareness after impacted his mother.

They can bring attention to social issues and injustices, as Cook did in 2014 while in St. Louis. He was among the Rams who raised the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture before a game, after police shot and killed Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Mo.

He wasn’t among players kneeling regularly during the national anthem, an act popularized by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He has protested social injustice and police brutality against minorities, which started a polarizing dialogue that has turned political.

The NFL recently decided on a national anthem policy – without input from the players association, by the way – that allows players to remain in the locker room during the pregame ritual but prohibits players from kneeling or sitting during the anthem. Teams with protesting players are subject to fines and penalties.

Raiders owner Mark Davis formally abstained – so did 49ers owner Jed York – from a decision that had no “nay” opinions, though ESPN reports a formal vote was not held.

Cook certainly supports a player’s right to stand up and speak. He also understands a firestorm can follow any comment on the anthem topic. Cook was asked about the new policy after Tuesday’s OTA session, and took a long pause before deciding to answer the question and express disappointment with the policy.

“You know, the narrative has changed on what it was originally about and it’s a real issue in this country,” Cook said. “It’s sad that you can’t have great minds that come together to fix a problem, and talk about a problem and make the situation better for all. I think that it’s sad that it’s gotten to this point. It’s sad that people lose their lives for minuscule details that aren’t even important as the bigger picture. That’s just the life that we live, that’s just the time that we’re living in.”

Cook believes popular players, who are given a loud voice, should use it effectively and not just stick to sports.

“We’re here for a bigger platform, we’re not just athletes,” Cook said. “We’re people that lived this. There are people in our neighborhood, people that we grew up with; it’s people that we know that are actually living through these circumstances. So, when we speak on it it’s not just like we’re speaking out of the side of our neck.

“There are things that actually touch home and things that we can actually relate to. All I have to say is that I just think it’s sad how it’s veered from being something that stood for good and the whole narrative has changed into something that’s negative, when that was not what it was initially about in the first place.”

The players weren’t asked for input in the new anthem policy, and Cook had an idea to make a positive impact.

“I think that it could have been a bigger and a better way to fix the situations,” Cook said. “You have breast cancer and you have (a league sanctioned) Breast Cancer Month. Just have a Social Injustice Month; raise money, bring positive light to it instead of making it look negative. Focus on the good and focus on fixing the situation instead of making it worse. I just think there could have been steps to prevent it and make it better for both sides.”

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