JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day after saying that some in the Jaguars organization discouraged players from kneeling during the national anthem, former safety Peyton Thompson said that he had positive dialogue with coach Doug Marrone and was hopeful that the team could take the lead on social justice causes during a heated time across the country.
Thompson, who played for the Jaguars from 2014-17, said that he had a “healthy conversation” with Marrone on Monday after he made a social media post that insinuated players were essentially told not to kneel to protest social injustice causes.
That issue has been pushed back to the forefront in the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breona Taylor and George Floyd, all African-Americans who died last month during encounters with law enforcement or in the presence of former law enforcement.
Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, which occurred with a white police officer pressing a knee into his neck until he lost consciousness and ultimately died, was the tipping point that ignited a week’s worth of protests and even violence.
“I had a healthy conversation with Marrone, yesterday,” Thompson said in a message posted on Twitter. “We spoke of his career’s work on equality and his efforts to make his players feel supported as well as the need to separate his actions from others in the organization. But, we also spoke of a time when the organization had a 3rd party come in to speak to the team in an attempt to convince us to change our stance. The reality is — the environment that was created in our facility wasn’t safe for everyone to kneel peacefully in protest.”
In a Monday post on social media, Thompson said that Marrone and former executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin told players to stand for the national anthem. Thompson also took issue with a post by the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell in response to the incidents involving Arbery, Taylor and Floyd.
Former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in 2016 to protest social injustice and that movement spread across the league. Thompson said that players were discouraged to join the kneeling movement in fear of getting “Kaepernick’d" from the league. Kaepernick, despite being a starting quarterback in the league for several years, has not been re-signed since opting out of his contract in early 2017. Widespread speculation has attributed his kneeling and social justice crusade as the reason why he’s out of the league.
By 2017, the issue was a one of the most polarizing in the country. In mid-September 2017, President Donald Trump weighed in on the topic and said that all players who kneel during the anthem should be fired. That inflamed tensions between the White House and players in both the NBA and NFL. On Sept. 24, 2017, Jaguars owner Shad Khan stood with players on the field in London, locked arm in arm in a silent and moving rebuke of those remarks.
Thompson said that he hopes Khan’s visibility on the issue
“I look forward to watching the leader of the team ensure that his players feel as though they have the FULL support of the entire organization. Action needs to start with the owner and coaches...If they Jags won’t do it, what organization will?”