It may be in a different country — and even a different league — but the Take a Knee protest sweeping the NFL is resonating with some Edmonton Eskimos players.
“It hit home with me a little bit,” said defensive back Aaron Grymes, who just returned to Edmonton after a stint in the NFL. “I was actually excited to see it. I was glad that the teams came together for a common cause. Everybody had each other’s back, that’s what matters most.
“From teams not taking the field to teams locking arms, some guys are taking a knee and still locking arms with their teammates. I think that’s what it’s all about.”
On Sunday, NFL players knelt and locked arms during the U.S. National anthem to protest comments made by U.S. President Donald Trump.
During a recent speech in Alabama, Trump said that NFL players who chose to kneel during the national anthem in a form of protest should be penalized for their actions. He later reinforced his statements with several tweets, including one that appeared to congratulate those locking arms but condemn those who kneeled during the anthem.
But Shahid Khan, who was the first owner to lock arms with players, explicitly stated that the action of locking arms was one of protest.
“I feel like you need to use your platform to speak for the people who don’t have a voice,” Grymes said.
“It’s chaos right now,” the American player said about what’s happening at home. “But we’ve got to continue to stick together, continue to lock arms, put hands on backs, have each other’s backs.”
Watch below: NFL players silently protested during the U.S. National anthem on Sunday in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments suggesting players who don’t stand for the anthem are disrespecting their country. Quinn Phillips gets reaction from the Edmonton Eskimos.
The movement started last year with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took to one knee as the national anthem played in protest of racial injustice and police brutality in America.
The owners of the Baltimore Ravens, the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and other teams on Sunday joined a chorus of NFL executives criticizing President Donald Trump’s suggestion that they fire players who kneel for the national anthem.
“We had the bye week to go home so obviously you see all the stuff all over the news,” Mike Reilly said on Monday. “Everything that goes on down in the U.S. affects half of our team very close to home. So most, if not everybody, in our locker room has been affected by one or more of the situations going on in the U.S.”
The Eskimos quarterback said he’s not publicly taking a stand on the anthem issue, but chooses instead to focus on playing football.
“Symbols stand for different things to different people. For me, I take a lot of pride both in the U.S. and in Canada. I sing the Canadian anthem with pride before every single game.
“I feel that it’s a honour for me to be up here to play… I do the same when I’m back in the U.S. … but I also have come from different backgrounds and different life situations than other people.”
Therefore, he supports peers who want to speak up and make their beliefs known.
“They’re standing on what they believe and they have every right to do that,” Reilly said.
Backlash to Trump’s comments reached the CFL on Sunday. Though players from both the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders stood for the Canadian anthem prior to their game in Regina, the Riders locked arms in a show of solidarity.
“Our players and coaches stood together, side by side, locked arm in arm as teammates, as co-workers, and as friends as a sign of solidarity and in support of human equality,” the Saskatchewan Roughriders said in a statement. “As an organization, we stand alongside our players and support their individual right to freedom of speech and their beliefs.”
Many players voiced their support for their football brethren south of the border after Calgary’s 15-9 victory.
“It’s sad and it’s disheartening to me as an American to see our president getting in bickering matches with people on Twitter, calling out athletes saying they should be fired,” said Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
“I’m glad we’re all uniting against that and I hope we take a stand against something that is unacceptable.”
Eskimos receiver Nate Behar, who’s Canadian, feels these are messages of unity and respect.
“Some of the beautiful things are having people who, you know, might not agree politically, who might not be making the same vote, but respect each other enough to link arms.
“Especially when it’s an issue that might be seen as only affecting some people, to have people from all sides of it standing up for one another, that’s nice to see as a person, as a football player — it’s everything.”
— With files from Dave Campbell, the Associated Press