- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2017

Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson defended NFL players who sit during the national anthem in interviews with CNN earlier this week, but also said it “pains” him when people don’t stand to honor the American flag.

“I believe every American should desire to stand for our anthem, but sometimes an American decides to use their agency to draw attention to an issue of concern,” Watson said. “I support the players who decided to sit because they are not doing so flippantly but because of a sincere conviction. It is their decision. … If I was playing this year, I would be standing, however, because for me, that’s not my mode of protest.”

Several players, including Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, did not stand during the national anthem before their team’s respective preseason games last week. 

Their protests echoed those of Colin Kaepernick last season, who remains unsigned despite reported interest from Baltimore and others. Watson asserted that based on talent alone Kaepernick should have a team by now, citing the protests as a reason the former 49er is still a free agent.

“Colin has proven to be a capable quarterback in the past, and he could definitely help an NFL franchise,” Watson said. “This is why, with the context of last year, it is disturbing that he is not on a roster at this point of training camp. … His actions during the national anthem last year and the subsequent positive and negative reactions are an overwhelming part of the reason he has not been signed.

“NFL organizations are made up of people who have emotions and political viewpoints like everyone else,” he said. “Some agree with him while others do not. It seems they have decided that his talent is not great enough to offset the anger many have expressed toward him and the threats towards teams who sign him.”

When asked about the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend that left one woman dead and many more injured, Watson said the tragic events did not surprise him, nor did President Trump’s claim that there was “blame on both sides.”

“Though it is startling and appalling to see these demonstrations in public, the existence of racism in America does not surprise me,” Watson said. “That ideology is alive and well. We must not only condemn this overt display but challenge each other to identify the racism that lurks behind boardroom doors and that permeates every facet of life.”

“I was not disappointed in President Trump for not initially condemning white supremacists because I did not expect him to directly condemn those who so vehemently support him,” he said.

Watson, 36, who won Super Bowl XXXIX as a member of the New England Patriots, said his Christian faith has informed his views on politics.

“I am not tied to being a Republican, I am not tied to being a Democrat, I’m not tied to being anything, I’m tied to looking at specific issues on their own merit,” he said. “Ultimately, the truth of the word of God is what I make those decisions based on, and sometimes that’s against what I feel.”

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