Roy Williams spoke to reporters at North Carolina’s media day on Tuesday, and he was asked about Colin Kaepernick’s protesting of the national anthem.
“When he did it, at first, it made me very angry,” Williams said. “The guy’s making 19 million dollars, what do you have to say against our country? Then, he explained himself more. I listened better. He wasn’t saying this was a bad country, that we have not just one particular problem, but one particular problem that he’s taking a stance on.”
“I think he’s correct. I told that to the team”
Kaepernick began protesting police violence against minorities during the San Francisco 49ers’ preseason games, and his protest has continued into the season. He’s been joined in protest by players all around the NFL as well as athletes in other sports.
The issue is topical for the Tar Heels, as the death of a black man at the hands of police in North Carolina spawned violent protests in Charlotte last month.
“After what happened in Charlotte, I had two guys come up to me and ask me my opinion on that,” Williams said, adding that his team all stood together in one group in the end zone at UNC’s first football game this season. He also added that he’ll “be with” anyone on his team that opts to protest during the season. “Tell me, the only thing I want you to do,” Williams said. “I’ll be with you, I may disagree, but I’ll be with you. Just don’t surprise me.”
“I would, if somebody came in and said, ‘Coach I want to do this,’ I would try to understand what he’s saying and try to give him my point of view and then hopefully a decision would be made.”
That’s the best way to handle it for a coach. You cannot be the white coach telling the black players they cannot stand up for a cause they believe. That’s the easiest way to kill yourself on the recruiting trail. But being prepared to control the message in the media, particularly in a state like North Carolina, which lost the ability to host ACC and NCAA postseason games due to the discriminatory HB2 law, is a measure of protection for the athlete and the program.
“I’ve softened my stance a great deal on Kaepernick,” He said. “I’m about as patriotic as anyone can possibly be, but it’s a very important issue right now.”