NFL player says he’s ‘done playing football’ if forced to stand for the national anthem

Tennessee Titans player Rishard Matthews has made a declaration that may cost him his job.

The Titans wide receiver has drawn the line in the sand on standing for the national anthem, deciding he would rather quit the NFL than be forced to alter his protest.

Asked by local Nashville producer, Matt Parker, on Twitter Thursday if he would continue to stay in the locker room when the anthem is played even if it meant facing a fine or penalty, Matthews  replied that he would be “done” playing football.

The tweet was quickly deleted and Matthews was not available to speak to reporters in the locker room, ESPN reported. Titans head coach Mike Mularkey had just learned about the tweet but told reporters following Thursday’s practice that he had not even had a chance to think about it.

Matthews had not previously joined the protests by NFL players out of respect for his brother, a Marine who died in Afghanistan two years ago. His father also served 23 years in the Marines. Matthews decided to remain in the locker room during the anthem after President Trump criticized NFL players who were protesting and declared he would continue to do so until the president apologizes.

Matthews has stayed alone in the locker room during the anthem for the team’s last two games after the Titans initially protested before their Week 3 game against the Seattle Seahawks by remaining in the locker room.

A joint statement released by the NFL and NFL Players Association on Wednesday indicated that the policy recommending, not requiring, players to stand during the anthem has not been changed, ESPN reported. The subject of the protests and how to progress on social issues will be discussed in league meetings next week attended by Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and player leadership.

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Country singer Jessie James Decker, the wife of Titans wide receiver Eric Decker, said singing “The Star Spangled Banner” was one of her favorite things to do. In a video posted online this week, she noted how the anthem makes her think about those who serve in the military as well as her own military family.

Matthews, the Titans’ 28 year-old leading receiver, is currently in his second year of a three-year, $15 million contract. But he has effectively painted himself into a corner with his statement, leaving no wiggle room if the Titans call his bluff and force the players to stand.

And despite cries of free speech rights and constitutional protections, the fact remains that players who are making their statements on social issues by protesting at the games are on the job, subject to their employers’ rules.

Twitter users reacted to the remark and to what may end up being a bad business decision by Matthews.

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