Ex-Bengals safety George Iloka recalls tense 2017 meeting about kneeling for national anthem

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Ex-Bengals safety George Iloka recalls tense 2017 meeting about kneeling for national anthem

A handful of NFL players have already committed to kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality during the

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A handful of NFL players have already committed to kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality during the 2020 season.

Players kneeling during the anthem reached a peak in 2017 when President Trump appeared to fan the flames and called on owners to release players who decided to protest during the national anthem.

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After the president’s remarks, the Cincinnati Bengals players had a meeting and, in the end, elected not to kneel for their following game, former Bengals safety George Iloka recalled to WLWT-TV on Tuesday.

“I always said I was not going to talk about that until I was done playing officially, but I really don’t care,” he told the station. “A lot of people, myself in particular, wanted to kneel. It was a big issue and that was weighing heavily on my heart, it was weighing heavy on my mind, and obviously, it was weighing heavy on a lot of people’s hearts and minds across the NFL, and across the nation particularly with African Americans. It wasn’t just me that felt some kind of way about that.”

According to the station, all players did not come to an agreement with kneeling.

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“It was about 50 percent African Americans and 50 percent of my Caucasian brothers and it was only about 30 people. The meeting left pretty much just like, the African American players feeling like we want to kneel, and then it was the white players telling us, ‘you guys don’t need to do that,’” Iloka said.

Iloka said he felt like his viewpoint was not being understood.

“It’s almost like saying ‘Go be oppressed somewhere else and keep it out of my sight.’ That sort of thing. So, you know, it was like, ‘I understand that you don’t get how we feel and we are not asking you to join us, but just stop telling us not to,’” he told WLWT-TV.

Another player told the station that team owner Mike Brown warned the players that the fans would give them a ton of pushback if they decided to kneel for the anthem.

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The Bengals told the station that its work in the community speaks for itself.

With players around the league wanting to kneel, the Bengals told the station the team still trying to figure out the right message.

“We would like to allow time for our players and coaches to discuss before commenting,” the team said.

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