Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy hailed NFL players who have participated in national anthem protests as “patriots of the highest order” in a passionate open letter written for Time magazine.
“These athletes and many others are risking future contracts and endorsement opportunities to speak out on issues of racial injustice because they feel duty-bound to do so,” Van Gundy writes in the piece, via CBS Sports. ‘These are patriots of the highest order.
“In the great tradition of the civil rights movement, these athletes are using non-violent, peaceful protest to work toward specific changes they want to see in their communities and their country. Because of this ‘controversy,’ people are forgetting what these protestors are trying to change. It’s important for us to talk about it every day until it resonates, until change happens. Their demands are important, and today, I am adding my voice in support.”
Van Gundy’s open letter comes after speaking out in support of activist athletes last month. Van Gundy specifically explains why he’s been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, who in recent months has waged an all-out war against the NFL over anthem protests.
Van Gundy later in his open letter singled out Trump when addressing critics of the anthem protests.
“Many have criticized NFL and WNBA players who have taken a knee, raised a fist or remained in the locker room during the national anthem to protest racial injustice,” Van Gundy writes. “Many have said that these protests dishonor our country and our military men and women. President Donald Trump has said that those who protest should be fired. Several NBA players and two great coaches, Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, have been criticized for speaking out against the President, particularly on his statements regarding race. The patriotism of those who protest or speak out has been questioned. Many have tried to paint these athletes and coaches as villains in an effort to obscure their message.”
Van Gundy’s piece, like the anthem protest movement itself, undoubtedly will be met with praise by some and derision from others.