OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook does not appreciate President Donald Trump calling out NFL players who are protesting police brutality by kneeling during the National Anthem.
“Obviously, the things he's saying is outrageous in my opinion,” Westbrook said at Monday’s media day. “It's uncalled for, especially due to all the other things we have going on in the world. You know, the people, the families, the people all across the world that are hurting, that need help, that need guidance from our house. But I think it's unnecessary and uncalled for. I'm definitely not in agreement to anything he says, and I never will be.”
Trump called at a rally in Alabama last week to fire players who kneel for the anthem.
“Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a [expletive] off the field right now, out. He's fired. He's fired,” he said.
He has since doubled down on his opinion, retweeting multiple accounts supporting the thought of standing for the anthem and calling the protest an act of “total disrespect.”
Thunder forward Josh Huestis pointed out Monday exactly why he believes the actions to be necessary: Almost never is a civil rights protest popular in the time it occurs.
“That’s why the protest has to take place,” he said.
Thunder center Nick Collison said he was disappointed by Trump's comments.
"I think he has an opportunity to try to bring people together," Collison said. "Seems like every time he has a chance, he tries to tear people apart. I don't know if it's for political gain or what, but I think part of being an American, and loving America and loving the country is loving your fellow American and other people that make up this country."
Much of the NFL responded Sunday pregame either by kneeling during the anthem, locking arms during it or engaging in some other form of silent, peaceful protest.
“I thought what the NFL is doing right now is beautiful,” Thunder forward Paul George said. “They're showing a lot of power, not only from the players but the front office making statements that they're going to back their players up in whatever they do. I thought that was very powerful. So hopefully we can approach it the same way the NFL's doing it.
The NBA has specific rules about having to be on the court and lined up for when the National Anthem plays. But the league has a history of being political and basketball players have earned a reputation of being as socially aware as any other athletes.
“I saw MLB guys taking part into it,” George said. “If we can just realize what's at hand, where the face of a lot of things, we're the face of a lot of brands, if we can use that platform to kind of catapult what's going on, that's where we can make our mark on.”
Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as a host of the OKC Dream Team, a weekly Thunder podcast that runs every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.