OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Quick facts:
- Thunder players and Coach Billy Donovan have joined the conversation about national anthem protests.
- Many athletes have recently taken a knee to protest police violence against minorities in the U.S.
- President Donald Trump said NFL players who protest should be fired, prompting criticism from some across the country.
Oklahoma Thunder stars Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Nick Collison, Josh Huestis, Raymond Felton and Coach Billy Donovan have joined the national conversation about national anthem protests by athletes across the U.S.
In a press conference Monday, Westbrook said President Donald Trump's tweets about the protests were "outrageous."
"Obviously, the things he's saying is outrageous. In my opinion, it's uncalled for, especially due to all the other things we have going on in the world, the people, the families, the people all across the world that's hurting, that need help, that need guidance from our house. I think it's unnecessary and uncalled for and I'm definitely not in agreement with anything he says, never will be."
“As for me and our team here, if it's something that we will discuss, [then we will] go back to the team and discuss how we want to approach that and the national anthem,” Westbrook said. “We have a lot of respect for the flag, for the national anthem, and obviously, if our guys want to do something that represents togetherness, I'm all in for it."
Paul George said he hoped NBA players could use their platform in a similar way to those in the NFL.
"I can't speak for other organizations or other teams or their locker rooms," George said. "Hopefully, whatever we do as a unit, as a union and as a fraternity, we do it. Everyone has to take a part in to doing something. Hopefully, we do something as a league that gives us strength. I thought what the NFL is doing right now is beautiful. They're showing a lot of power, not only from the players, but the front office [is] making statements that they're gonna back their players up in whatever they do. I thought that was very powerful, so hopefully we can approach it the same way the NFL's doing it. I saw MLB guys taking part into it, so if we could just realize what's at hand, we're the face of a lot of things, we're the face of a lot of brands, we could use that platform to catapult what's going on. That's what we can make our mark on."
Nick Collison said he was disappointed with the president's comments and echoed the sentiment that professional athletes have a voice in the U.S.
"I'm disappointed in the president's comments," Collison said. "I think he’s got an opportunity to try to bring people together, and it seems like every time he has a chance, he tries to tear people apart. I don't know if it's for political gain or what, but I think part of being an American and loving America and loving the country is loving your fellow American and the other people that make up this country. When people who have an issue that they protest, they're trying to make the country a better place. Whether you agree with them or disagree with them, to then make them your enemy does nobody any good. For me, it's disappointing. I think players are in an interesting position in this country when that they have a voice. They can try to use that for good to unite the country. I think that’s what guys are trying to do. I know that's a tricky situation. A lot of people disagree with it, but I just wish instead of saying it's us against them and fighting the culture war that everyone seems to fight all the time, I just wish there would be more listening and trying to make it better and solve problems instead of just point out who's fault it is for problems."
Josh Huestis said that protests throughout American history have not been well received, but he believes those involved are doing the right thing.
“It’s interesting,” Huestis said. “I’m proud. I think America was built on a foundation of people standing up for what they believe in, and I think throughout history you can look at any protest that’s occurred, and they’re not well received at the time they occur. I think that’s pretty obvious. I think that’s why the protest has to take place. So, obviously, I think what they’re doing there is a good thing. I think it’s calling attention to problems we have in this country, and, obviously, there’s going to be some resistance, but I think that they’re on the right path.”
Raymond Felton said that though he’s not into politics, he’s willing to make a stand to do the right thing.
“Everything in that aspect is everybody’s own opinion. Everybody has their own opinion. Somebody else might feel a certain way, or this person here might feel some kind of way. With me, I’m not a politician. I’m not into politics. I don’t get into all that, but at the same time, I’m all about what everybody else is down to do, I’m down to do it, as long as it’s the right thing to do at the end of the day.”
Coach Billy Donovan said the organization will support Thunder players during what's become a contentious time for some athletes.
"We're always going to support our players' right for free speech and things they're pointing out," he said. "For me, personally, also I have great respect for our country as well, and it's certainly during some difficult times with different challenges going on. As a person that has coached for a long period of time and been around a lot of different environments and situations, there are a lot of struggles out there. There's a whole a lot of people fighting a lot of difficulties. It's unfortunate, because I would like to see our country come closer together rather than being pulled further apart."
The team's response comes after President Donald Trump said NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police violence against minorities in the U.S.
Trump’s comments sparked responses from athletes both in the NFL and beyond. Hundreds of football players took a knee during the anthem Sunday, and some athletes and officials called Trump’s comments “divisive.”
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