Steve Largent talks national anthem, white privilege and Seahawks

Sep 7, 2016, 6:12 PM | Updated: Sep 8, 2016, 8:36 am
Steve Largent...
Steve Largent says the national anthem is not the time to protest. (AP)

Ever since football player Colin Kaepernick opted to sit during the national anthem, a debate has grown over when the appropriate time is to make a statement. Enter Seahawk hall-of-famer Steve Largent into that debate.

“That’s a moment as a player to stop, reflect and acknowledge that there’s been a lot of sacrifices made to get us to a point in this country, even to have to the opportunity we have as players to play this game, be paid as much as we do, and everything else,” Largent told KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don. “Taking a pot shot at some cause, whatever it is, during the national anthem is inappropriate.”

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Steve Largent was a Seattle Seahawks wide receiver from 1976 to 1989 and boasts a number of titles, including status in the NFL Hall of Fame. After his sports career, he entered politics in his home state of Oklahoma. Running as a Republican, he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1994 to 2002.

But more recently, football has been drawing attention as some players — starting with 49ers Colin Kaepernick — sit during the national anthem before games. It is meant as a silent protest over issues of racial oppression in the United States, including police shootings of African Americans. Some call Kaepernick a patriot for controversially exercising his freedom of speech, and others say it’s not the appropriate time to make his point.

You can add Steve Largent to the latter camp.

“Maybe I’m just from another era,” Largent said. “I think there’s a lot of opportunities that players have to make their point. I think doing it during the national anthem is not the right time for any kind of statement to be made. You have a microphone in your face, or pen on a paper at the drop of a hat. So there’s a lot of times to make political statements or make statements of disappointment — whatever you want to make. But don’t make it during the national anthem. There’ve been too many people in our country that have fought hard for that flag.”

“I know they’ll say that this is not about (people who fought hard),” he added. “Well ya know, in fact, it really is. When you are making a point, whatever it is, and you’re doing it during the national anthem – that anthem means something to me, and it should mean something to everyone.”

Ron pressed Largent on race issues in the country, noting that there are perceptions from some black players who grew up in bad neighborhoods and worry that there isn’t liberty and justice for all. Largent agreed, to a point, but thinks that the national anthem is a separate issue.

“I don’t understand where they are coming from because I didn’t grow up that way,” Largent said. “My parents didn’t have two cents to rub between them. And I definitely grew up in a poor part of Oklahoma City … my step-father made $22,000 while I was being raised. It wasn’t like I was coming from a rich family. But I never felt like I was being oppressed, or anyone was holding me down. But there are black families in this country that feel that way. I understand that – I get that.”

“The thing I draw a line on is when you are trying to honor the country that has given all of us so many opportunities,” he said. “What I am saying has nothing to do with whether or not I think black families have been disadvantaged in this country. I think those cases are true and real — I’m not discounting that at all. But I think there is a better and more appropriate time to make a statement.”

What about white privilege, though, Don pressed. Could that be part of Steve Largent’s perspective and how he experienced life, and success?

“I felt like everything I got I earned. I had to earn it,” Largent added. “Nobody was giving me anything. There were a lot of kids like me in Oklahoma City where I was raised that didn’t have two nickels to rub between them. I would be offended if somebody said that to me. Because it’s not true. I understand that there were others, white kids who had big advantages over me. But I wasn’t one of those guys.”

Ron and Don

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Steve Largent talks national anthem, white privilege and Seahawks