While appearing on MSNBC to discuss President Donald Trump’s controversial comments on national anthem protesters, actor and activist Jesse Williams claimed the NFL’s customary pregame national anthem is actually a government “scam” designed to convince “boys and girls to go fly overseas and kill people.”
During an MSNBC Live segment with host Thomas Roberts, Williams — who is best known for his role on Grey’s Anatomy — attacked the Star Spangled Banner by dredging up Defense Department recruitment tactics:
“[Saying] we need to stand and pledge for the allegiance and this anthem thing is a scam. This is not a part of football. [The pregame national anthem] was invented in 2009 from the government [by] paying the NFL to market military recruitment — to get more people to fight wars to die. This is not — nothing to do with the NFL or the American pastime or tradition. This is to get boys and girls to go fly overseas and go kill people… They’re marketing and pumping millions of dollars into the NFL to get us to put on a pageant in front of the NFL football games to get you to go off and fight.”
To which Roberts simply responded, “Right.”
According to the fact-checking site Snopes, Williams is referencing a practice called “paid patriotism” — which was brought to attention by GOP senators Jeff Flake and John McCain after they released a statement and a report jabbing both the National Guard and Defense Department for spending taxpayer money on a series of NFL promotions. These defacto advertisements included military personnel or “patriotic displays.”
Though, this does not necessarily confirm Williams claims, as their information did not include 2009 — which is the year Williams references in the segment. Based on these reports, it appears the Grey’s Anatomy actor received his information from a popular Facebook meme on the issue.
During the interview, Williams also went after NFL owners — not just for declining to sign Kaepernick, but also for their millions of dollars in donations to Trump’s campaign. “I think we have a perception that athletics is entirely a meritocracy and the NFL proves that… We know that seven or eight owners gave Donald Trump $1 million each and are friends with a horrible guy who thinks he’s a dictator, who treats America like it’s a game show,” said the actor.
Additionally, Williams attacked currently employed quarterbacks by saying, “This league is rife with mediocre white quarterbacks that are not as good as Colin Kaepernick — who was just in the Super Bowl.” However, this comments is not entirely correct, as Kaepernick has not played in a Super Bowl since the 49ers lost in 2013 to the Baltimore Ravens and their questionably-elite quarterback Joe Flacco.
As far as his political comments go, Williams had a viral moment during the BET Awards last year as he gave a heartfelt speech on the struggles unique to black Americans.
[featured image via screengrab]
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