JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jalen Ramsey is no stranger to controversy. The outspoken cornerback has displayed a knack for getting under opponents’ skin in his first two seasons in the NFL – perhaps most notably when he goaded Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green into a fight in 2017. Most recently, he was suspended for a week after slamming local media for filming a dustup between defensive ends Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue.
That’s why it’s no surprise to see Ramsey, 23, weigh in on the league’s new policy governing how players should behave during the national anthem. The rule gives players the choice of staying in the locker room, but requires everyone on the field to stand for the anthem. In an interview with GQ, Ramsey said people are missing the point of on-field protests.
"I think the NFL’s just missing it right now," he told the magazine. "They’re making it about what it’s not really about. It’s not about: we don’t love America; it’s not about not respecting the flag. That’s not what it’s about at all."
Asked to speculate on the reasons behind the new rule, Ramsey said it looks like league officials overlooked that it was former NFL player and Green Beret Nate Boyer who suggested former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneel in the first place. He indicated it was President Donald Trump's calls for protesting players to be fired that blew the issue out of proportion.
"(Boyer) told him, 'Get on the line with the guys, but just take a knee,'" said Ramsey. "And people don’t even talk about that was the reality, that’s how it started. And ever since what’s his name’s been in the office, he like really blew it up, made it something it’s really not."
Given the new rule, Ramsey said it is likely a "fair share" of players won’t be on the field pre-game for reasons completely unrelated to the anthem. He said fans may take it the wrong way, but players could linger in the locker room for a variety of reasons. Either because they need to use the restroom, or they're still getting dressed. Or they simply need to need to finish taping an ankle.
So how does Ramsey plan to spend the anthem?
"I’ll probably not go out. I’ll probably just stay in and get ready for the game. That’s what I’ve always done, my whole life. I only went out there when I been in the NFL. If I don’t have to be out there, I’ll probably just mind my own business."