JJ Watt: You’re Not Listening If You Think Anthem Protests Are About the Flag

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 12: Defensive end J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans gets ready prior to the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs  at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt took to Twitter on Saturday to defend the act of kneeling during the national anthem.

Watt offered the following response to a Twitter user who said they are “pretty sure you won’t see Watt taking a knee.”

JJ Watt @JJWatt

A) don’t speak for me

B) if you still think it’s about disrespecting the flag or our military, you clearly haven’t been listening https://t.co/tnsEq5D9WC

The user’s tweet was in reference to Texans head coach Bill O’Brien saying Friday that he will kneel with his team if they decide to during the 2020 season, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle:

“Yeah, I’ll take a knee—I’m all for it,” O’Brien said. “The players have a right to protest, a right to be heard and a right to be who they are. They’re not taking a knee because they’re against our flag. They’re taking a knee because they haven’t been treated equally in this country for over 400 years.”

The act of kneeling during the anthem began in 2016 when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first player to do it to protest against racial inequality, police brutality and social injustice.

The NFL was against kneeling and searched for alternatives, but commissioner Roger Goodell said this week that the league was “wrong” in how it handled the situation:

NFL @NFL

We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter. #InspireChange https://t.co/ENWQP8A0sv

Following the killing of 46-year-old black man George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, protests have broken out across the country and the world. It is widely expected that NFL players and possibly even entire teams will kneel during the anthem in the 2020 season.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees spoke out against kneeling in an interview with Yahoo Finance last week, saying he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”

Yahoo Finance @YahooFinance

Highlight: @readdanwrite asks @drewbrees what the star NFL quarterback thinks about “players kneeling again when the NFL season starts.”

@drewbrees: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”

Full exchange: https://t.co/MpCkFyOMed

After receiving backlash, Brees apologized on Instagram, writing that he “completely missed the mark.”

Watt has been outspoken about systemic racism and police brutality since the killing of Floyd, a Houston native. The Texans’ first preseason game could provide a poignant moment, too, as it is against the Minnesota Vikings on August 14 in the same city in which Floyd was killed.

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