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Sen. Scott: Understand why football players use the national anthem to protest

People need to understand why football players are using the national anthem to stage protests, says Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate’s only black Republican.

His view puts him somewhat at odds with President Donald Trump, who has condemned athletes who protest during the national anthem.

Scott, who grew up in poverty in North Charleston, urged compassion. “We should also figure out why people are kneeling so we can have an understanding and an appreciation for what’s happening in those communities that they’re coming from. Communities that I’ve come from,” he said.

Scott had similar suggestions for Trump and others after the deadly white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., in August, which resulted in his visit to the White House to discuss matters of race with the president and vice president.

Scott was not, however, in full agreement with Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond, D-La., who sent National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell a letter this week on behalf of the group defending the rights of players to take a knee or raise their fists in protest during the national anthem. Forty-eight of the caucus’ 49 members are Democrats. Rep. Mia Love of Utah is the caucus’ lone Republican.

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Scott, who is not a caucus member, said he understands the players’ view but believes that “every man, woman and child should stand for the flag.”

He explained, “You can do both, you can honor the flag and the symbols of this country and at the same time fight against injustice wherever you can find it.”

In his letter, Richmond took a more forceful tone.

“We do not owe anyone an explanation for or a defense of our patriotism,” he wrote. “African Americans are just as patriotic as any other Americans. We have fought in every war in this country, from the American Revolution to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to return home and face racism and discrimination.”

Trump first weighed in on the protest debate in a speech in Alabama last month, saying, “get that son of a bitch off the field,” his suggestion for how NFL owners should handle protesting players.

He has gone on to tweet about the issue frequently, saying that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired. Trump also took credit for Vice President Mike Pence’s much-publicized early departure from an Indianapolis Colts game October 8 in protest of the display.

Trump lashed out at NFL’s 32 team owners in a tweet Wednesday for not requiring players to stand for the national anthem. The owners and players discussed social issues during a meeting in New York later in the day.

“The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our national anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!” Trump tweeted.

Joseph Cooke at jcooke@mcclatchydc.com

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