Panthers Player Says NFL Anthem Policy Paints Kaepernick As 'Villain'
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith believes the NFL "dropped the ball" with its new policy that forbids players from sitting or taking a knee on the field during the national anthem.
Smith is upset because he feels like the ruling has created a "false narrative" surrounding the message former NFL teammate Colin Kaepernick was originally trying to convey while taking a knee prior to NFL games.
He said it also paints players as anti-American.
"Guys aren't against the military," Smith said. "Kap originally started that against police brutality. It was never against the military. It was never about the military, but that narrative changed."
Smith, acquired in an offseason trade with the Eagles, denounced the league's ruling following Carolina's practice on Tuesday — its first since it was announced last week at the NFL owners meetings.
He said the restrictions imposed by the league on players go against the beliefs that protesters like Kaepernick have stood up for the past couple years.
"When you see reactive policy ... I always think that's a problem," Smith said. "Especially when the message has been changed. ... It makes it seem like Kaepernick or Eric Reid and the guys who started it, what they did was in vain — like they were villains. And that is not the case."
Smith reacted quickly to the league's change in policy on social media last week.
He tweeted : "Appropriate respect for flag and anthem" implies that guys were being disrespectful towards it. Which is an opinion. Most people who believe that ignore the responses from the players and more importantly why men chose to protest."
Smith was teammates with Kaepernickin San Francisco in 2015 and 2016 and got to know him well.
The league made the decision to fine teams whose players don't stand during the national without consulting with the NFL Players Association. There have been protests in different cities since the ruling came down with claims the league is interfering with the right to free speech.
Smith believes the NFL made a mistake bringing the issue — one he felt like was dying off — back to the forefront.
He said the league's policy to fine teams for players protesting likely will only serve to "stir things up " between players and owners this coming season.
"You're being told to be quiet, when it could have been done together to figure out what we can do to move forward and what would be best for the players," Smith said.
Smith has long been outspoken on public matters because he feels the platform of being a professional athlete should be used for the betterment of society.
"It's going to be a long-term process, and we're just trying to do our part," he said. "That's essentially what the protests started with and we have to continue with. It's not so much about the protests but the work going forward."
Smith said he was disappointed, but not surprised by the league ruling.
"At the end of the day, the league is about money, it's a business," Smith said. "To try to silence those guys when they're trying to do the right thing for our country, I don't know what to say about it."