Washington State head coach Mike Leach chimed in on the protests that have taken over the National Football League by its players and says he doesn't understand what's being protested.
Like most college teams, Washington State stays in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem.
The issue has been polarized, especially this past weekend when more than 250 NFL players did not stand up during anthem in protest for what President Donald Trump said about those who he says disrespected the flag.
“First of all, we’re in the locker room during the anthem, we’re together as a team,” Leach said, according to the Seattle Times. “To me it’s not real clear what’s being protested – I haven’t heard a clear articulation of what’s protested or objected to. Me personally I’m proud of this country and would stand for the anthem and respect the flag."
The kneeling during the national anthem started last season when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protested to be bring awareness to racial inequality and police brutality.
"But with that said, I don’t know exactly what they’re objecting to," Leach said.
Leach was then told that Trump said NFL players should be fired from their job for not standing for the flag and anthem.
“That’s not exactly what was said, and I still don’t understand what that has to do with the flag.” Leach said.
Leach’s comments got the attention of former Washington State star receiver Gabe Marks, who tweeted at his former coach on Monday night. Player and coach then engaged in a Twitter exchange in which they clearly fell on opposite sides of the debate.
Leach is well-known for his candor in the college football world, but Marks is an outspoken character in his own right. He called the protests “the dilemma of the professional athlete right now” in an April SI profile.
“You can’t be yourself because if what you are is not what they want you to be, then you could not have a job,” Marks said. “A lot of athletes come from not the best situations, and it just doesn’t seem very worth it. It’s a conundrum … I think it’s more now than ever (before), because there’s just so much money involved and there’s so much on the line that it’s becoming really scary to say what you mean, and rightfully so.”
“Individual thought is pretty sacred, and I think our country has totally lost sight of that,” Leach told SI in the same story. “I think there’s temptation in this country right now to restrict thought based on how somebody arbitrarily decides to get their feelings hurt or be offended. I do think there’s a time, place and manner for that type of thing … But I think having people around [the locker room] that add dimension and personality to your team are very important, as long as everybody knows when it’s time to work, and work extremely hard.”