Pro football great Herschel Walker praised President Trump’s character and defended his call for professional athletes to stand for the national anthem during a speech at the Republican National Convention on Monday.
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Walker, 58, said he considers it a “personal insult” when critics accuse Trump of racism. He argued that Trump’s public opposition to national anthem protests in professional sports leagues such as the NFL and NBA did not lessen his commitment to social justice issues.
“Just because someone loves and respects the flag, our National Anthem, and our country doesn’t mean they don’t care about social justice. I care about all of those things, and so does Donald Trump,” Walker said. “He shows how much he cares about social justice and the Black community through his actions. And his actions speak louder than any stickers or slogans on a jersey.”
The debate of anthem protests reignited last May after the death of George Floyd in police custody prompted a nationwide movement against racial injustice. The NBA allowed players to wear social justice phrases on the backs of their jerseys to raise awareness, while the NFL reportedly plans to allow players to wear decals on their helmets to honor victims of systemic racism.
Walker said he developed a “deep, personal friendship” with Trump dating back to 1984, when the president purchased the New Jersey Generals of the now-defunct United States Football League. The former Heisman Trophy winner described Trump as a committed man with a strict attention to detail in his business dealings.
Walker said it “hurts my soul” when critics accuse the president of racism.
“People who think that don’t know what they are talking about. Growing up in the Deep South, I have seen racism up close. I know what it is. And it isn’t Donald Trump,” Walker said.
Trump was a key figure in the USFL’s attempt to challenge the NFL’s dominance in the mid-80s. The league folded in 1986 after just three seasons.
Walker spent three seasons with the Generals before joining the NFL. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection while playing for the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.