- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2017

LANDOVER — Josh Norman was driving in his car when he received a text message, asking if he saw President Donald Trump’s comments about NFL players and protests. It was one of those moments where Norman stopped where he was and couldn’t believe what was said.

The president said NFL players deserved to be fired for protesting during the National Anthem and owners needed to “get that son of a bitch off the field.” Norman was stunned.

In a passionate conversation that lasted more than 20 minutes, Norman criticized the president, saying Trump wasn’t welcome in the District and didn’t speak for him.

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Trump’s comments, Norman said, made him reflect on if he was really viewed as an American. He started to get choked up as he spoke.

“Am I really free?” Norman said. “I have to look at myself and think sometimes, like, ‘This is out here in the world.’ Little ones that grow up have to go through this, man. It’s so sad. It’s so sad. We have to. And the thing is, I promise you the next time, there is voting or anything about it, we’ll be the first in line. For whatever comes up. Because this right here is not acceptable.”

Norman and other members of the Washington Redskins participated in a demonstration Sunday before their 27-10 win over the Oakland Raiders. Norman locked arms with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and teammate DeAngelo Hall. Seven Redskins were seen kneeling.

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The Redskins cornerback said the team’s protest was not about disrespect for the military. Norman pointed out his family served in the military, including his grandfather who fought in the Korean War. If he wasn’t in the NFL, Norman said, he would have joined the Air Force.

Norman said he wanted to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt before, but his comments at the rally changed things.

He said he couldn’t stop thinking about Trump’s comments and the Raiders game became secondary.

“When you mess with one brother, you mess with us all,” Norman said. “Don’t nobody was divided in this. We wanted to stand for something. I’ll tell you right now, this man is not welcome here in Washington D.C.

“Hope he’s not around when I see him. …. He’s not welcome. He picked on the wrong people.”

Norman said he respects the office of the president, as well. He was also disturbed at the amount of people cheering Trump’s comments at the rally.

Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder said he hopes people hear players out. He was one of the seven players to kneel.

“There’s a lot going on in the country right now,” Crowder said. “We just wanted to bring unity, man. That’s all we want really.”

Before Norman spoke out against the president, the Redskins released a statement following the demonstrations during the national anthem and avoided mentioning Trump or his comments.

“Football has always served as the great unifier, bringing people together to celebrate the values of courage, commitment and achievement,” the Redskins said in a statement. “We are proud of the players, coaches and fans of the Washington Redskins for all that they have done to improve the lives of others in neighborhoods all across our region.” 

Norman pushed back against the idea athletes should just stick to sports, arguing Trump’s comments about the NFL were political. He wondered why Trump was targeting NFL players for “doing what we thought — no, what we know — is right and it’s in the Constitution.”

At one point, a Redskins spokesman tried to end the session, but Norman kept going, saying “this is dear to me, brother.” He said if he didn’t speak out, it would tear him apart. 

“It’s about what we’re being faced with right now and that’s being teared down from in the White House behind the podium, behind the Presidency of the United States of the America, something that’s free,” Norman said. “That can’t go down. That’s an attack against you as a man, and if you don’t stand for something, you fall.”

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