Playing With Fire: Rishard Matthews Picks Up Protest Torch From Colin Kaepernick

When Jerry Jones came out on Monday and said any Dallas player that doesn’t stand for the national anthem won’t play for his team, the final nail in the narrative manipulation was complete. Less than a week later, Tennessee Titans Wide Receiver Rishard Matthews is reinvigorating Colin Kaepernick’s protest message of oppression.

What makes Matthews the right person to resuscitate this message is Matthews comes from a military family. His father served 23 years in the Marines and brother, another Marine, died in Afghanistan two years ago. The default response of protecting patriotism won’t work with a family who has sacrificed much more than most will ever know. It’s impossible to question his family — his pride in America.

In fact, it is his pride that has forced him to finally step up and be vocal.

“I don’t want to take away from what the whole protest is about, which is oppression, police brutality and inequality in this country,” he said. “I fully stand with my brother Kap, and I plan to continue to do that.”

What the NFL owners, the President and Vice President have tried to silence with various sleight of hand tricks won’t work when dealing with a man who knows the pain of losing a loved one fighting for this country.

The NFL’s controversial stance to support its players in protest lasted a week. Owners and the commissioner have come out since then and stated they want players to stand. The idea of angry white viewers threatening their money scares them more than the black athletes they use feeling oppressed and subhuman.

When Trump attacked the NFL and its players, Matthews stayed in the locker room. The first week it was with his entire team. The last two weeks he has sat there alone. Unnoticed.

He has said he does not want this to be a publicity stunt. Another default excuse people like to use to ignore the underlying issue. He has already started to follow in the path of his college teammate Kaepernick.

Last month, Matthews pledged to donate $75,000 to organizations that support oppressed communities, nullifying another talking point that players protesting should do something about it.

When the NFL threatened to change the rule, forcing players to stand on the sideline during the anthem, Matthews upped the ante.

Matthews was asked by Matt Parker, a local Nashville producer, via Twitter if he would continue to remain in the locker room during the anthem if the NFL created a rule requiring players to stand or face a penalty.

“No, I will be done playing football,” Matthews responded.

What will happen is anyone’s guess.There are few “star” players who have continued to #TakeTheKnee since the league-wide protest late-September. While some owners have forfeited the opportunity to win by keeping Kaepernick out of the league, it is unknown how far they’ll take it. Will Jerry Jones bench stars Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant or Ezekiel Elliot should they choose to protest?

Matthews, 28, is in the second year of a three-year, $15 million contract. He is the leading receiver for the Titans. Tennessee has already shunned Kaepernick. When Marcus Mariota tweaked his hamstring, the Titans declined to sign him, instead opting to ink a deal with Brandon Weeden. Would they do the same to Matthews?

What will happen is Matthews will continue to speak. He believes his dead Marine brother would support this cause. What he is doing is necessary. He encapsulates what makes America great.

“If you see wrong and don’t say anything, that’s wrong. As minorities, what do you want to happen before we say anything? They tried to have a silent protest, and look what happened. It’s your right to stand or sit down. You have that right, that freedom of speech, and you’re not allowing that to happen.”

Spoiled. Unpatriotic. Untalented. None of these apply to Matthews. He has the receipts.

The only question is whether or not the message will break  through. Or will it continue to get lost in a sea of partisanship and excuses?

Matthews doesn’t care. He’ll be in the locker room and in the community affecting change, rather than let the message be changed for him.