49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest movement continues to gain momentum, with players from the NFL, college and even high school football teams across the country taking part. Former Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz weighed in on the protests and how teams should handle them.
Holtz does believe players have a first amendment right to protest.
“I do not fault the athletes, I do not fault the band members, I fault the leadership. They have a choice, they can make that choice, they wanted to kneel down,” Holtz told the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo.
But as a former college coach, Holtz put it on the team’s leadership to make the school’s policy clear to the players. He believes at the beginning of the year the leadership should say, “Men, we will not use this football team to promote any other cause except the university we represent. We aren’t going to promote abortion, pro-life, or anything else. You want to make that case, you’re free to do so, I welcome it, this country is great, but you are going to make us part of this football team. This football team’s about our university and about excellence. You go do it on your own, but you aren’t going to do it with the football team.”
When Bartiromo brought up the decline in ratings for the NFL’s Monday Night Football games, Holtz responded, “There’s no doubt the ratings are down, now maybe it was because one of the games was up against the presidential debate.”
When asked whether prohibiting the protests in the NFL was the right move, Holtz reiterated his view that ultimately that decision is up to the team’s leaders.
“Well, I know when I coached in the NFL, we practiced standing for the National Anthem with our toes on the 50 yard line and our helmets under our left hand and our right hand on our heart. I saw the Minnesota Vikings do it under Bud Grant. That was [the] most impressive thing before the game to show the respect, the togetherness. What gets me is, you have the right to do it, I’m not criticizing that, but it’s the people in the leadership that have to decide what they’re going to do with it.”
Holtz then gave an example from his experience at the University of Notre Dame, where disciplinary actions were taken when players broke the school’s rules.
“At the University of Notre Dame everything [on] that football team reflected the university and they were going to be involved in it. They handled all the discipline. I had an individual drive his car on campus to empty his clothes for the fall, but he had some parking tickets, they told him not to drive it on campus, they never allowed him to play the entire year because he violated the rule.”