One of the biggest controversies in the NFL revolves around the decision of players to sit or kneel during the National Anthem, and University of Illinois head coach Lovie Smith weighed in on that situation during a recent interview.
Speaking with Mad Dog Sports Radio, Smith said that he would be fine with his players if they chose to protest during the anthem, as numerous NFL players have done as a way of protesting racial inequality in the United States.
“This is what I tell our players: you live in a society and you can’t avoid everything that’s happening in the world,” he said. “Be informed, and if you make a decision, be willing to stand by it.”
Smith’s comments come as players from around the NFL sit or kneel the anthem, after former San Francisco 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began doing so last season.
Seattle Seahawks lineman Michael Bennett and Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch have continued protesting during the anthem this season, and Philadelphia Eagles defensive Malcolm Jenkins raised his fist during the anthem.
For Smith, he encourages his players to not only have a voice on social issues, but also to be an active participant in both the democratic process and in their communities.
“As a football player, you have a mike in front of you at all times, so if there’s an issue they want to address, they can do it at any time,” he said. “I encourage all our guys to vote and I encourage all our guys to be involved in what’s happening in our community.”
Smith is entering his second season as the head coach in Champaign, after his team went 3-9 in his debut season at the helm.