Eyes Opened, Pagano Changes Stance On Protests

Chuck Pagano told his Colts to not kneel in 2016, according to a player.

Chris Emma
June 18, 2020 - 1:36 pm
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(670 The Score) After the Bears held discussions recently about police brutality and racial injustice, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano admits his view on peaceful protests has changed.

Pagano hopes to do whatever he can to support players as they seek solutions to issues of inequality in our society. That tune is different from 2016, when Pagano was the Colts' coach and asked his players to not kneel in protest, according to former Indianapolis cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

"We've all done a ton of listening and learning," Pagano said on a video conference Thursday. "What I know today compared to what I knew back then, my eyes are opened up, my ears are opened up. I think we're all learning a great deal (with) exactly what was going on and those kind of things. 

"They've got full support. We're going to do whatever we can do to help this fight and this cause, not let the flames burn out. Do whatever we can do to help."

Peaceful protests as they pertain to the NFL returned to conversation after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25. In 2016, then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protested against police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. Kaepernick, now 31, hasn't played in the NFL since that season. Lately, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has welcomed protests in a way that the league hadn't before.

Last October, Cromartie told Bleacher Report that Pagano told his team in 2016 to refrain from kneeling during the national anthem. An 11-year NFL veteran, Cromartie believes he was released by the Colts for disputing Pagano's stance.

"We are in a team meeting room," Cromartie said. "And coach Pagano gets up and says, 'Look, guys. I know you guys all want to do something. I don't want you guys taking a knee.' Like, 'What? Don't take a knee? What do you mean not take a knee?' (Pagano) is like, 'Well, guys, look, when we go out on the football field, it's about football.'"

Cromartie was 32 at the time of his release from the Colts. He hasn't been on an NFL roster since that season.

The Bears haven't decided whether they'll protest or kneel as a group during the 2020 season. Since coach Matt Nagy was hired in 2018, the team has locked arms in solidarity during the national anthem.

Bears safety Jordan Lucas plans to kneel during the national anthem and doesn't believe it's a team decision to be made, he said recently.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.