James Franklin Indirectly Opines On Trump Comments, Divisive Nationwide Climate
It was inevitable that James Franklin would be asked about NFL player protests in the wake of comments that captured the attention of NFL audiences across the country this past weekend.
Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total). These are fans who demand respect for our Flag!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2017
It was equally as inevitable that Franklin would answer the question somewhat indirectly, but his response reflected the values he’s tried to instill in his team. It’s important to remember that Penn State’s football team consists of young men between the ages of 18-23 put on an elevated platform during one of the most divisive times — politically speaking — in recent memory.
Players and coaches alike all have differing opinions, but it’s the opportunity to discuss these opinions in an open forum that havee allowed for reason to prevail. Franklin acknowledged these ideas on Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
“We spent a lot of time discussing this last year,” Franklin said. “This year, we’ve spent some time talking about it, because [the team] knew how I felt.”
Of course, Franklin didn’t want the entire session’s focus to remain on political subjects, but made sure to emphasize the fact that yes, he is human; he has opinions on the matter.
“As you can imagine, I want to spend as much time focusing on Indiana as I can,” Franklin said. “I have very strong feelings as an American, as a college football coach, and as an African-American. I like to keep those things personal…to me that’s what’s so great about this country. We can have different opinions, but we can all respect them.”
Tight end Mike Gesicki, a member of the program’s leadership council, also shared his feelings on discussion from the player’s perspective.
“I think it’s important for our team to have those discussions. Our guys should have the opportunity to express those opinions… I think it’s important and something we take pride in. Having those conversations have been good for us, and we’ll continue to have them if need be.”
Franklin also made an effort to laud freshman cornerback Lamont Wade’s commentary on social issues; Wade took to Twitter to criticize Trump’s comments, and has been active on social media discussing topics of division and injustice.
Here’s a video Wade tweeted Sunday night after hearing of Trump’s comments:
— 38Sav® (@Goony_38) September 25, 2017
“I’m proud of him,” Franklin said. “I’m proud of him because he spent time thinking about what’s on his heart and expressing himself, being thoughtful, articulate; to me that’s what college athletics is all about, that’s what Penn State is about. Embracing differences, and appreciating that our differences is what makes our country so strong and so wonderful.”
“We’re in a time now where that’s probably not being focused on enough,” Franklin said. “We’re focused on our differences from a negative perspective, but we should be focusing on our differences from a positive perspective. That’s why I was very proud of Lamont.”
It’s important to keep these things in perspective. Each member of Penn State’s program has opinions and is entitled to those opinions. It’s refreshing to see those elements acknowledged by Franklin, and to know that discussions are being held on these divisive issues.
On another note, the magic of Saturday’s last-second win can be appreciated a bit more, because it’s what makes sports so special. These issues didn’t magically disappear on Saturday, but for a few hours, the community rallied together, put political differences aside, and immersed itself in one of the most memorable games played in recent memory.
Franklin won’t delve into personal feelings on these issues, nor should he. He’s entitled to his opinions, and he’s entitled to keep them within the confines of his program. It’s important for the coach to recognize these issues in our society, and it’s comforting to see that he does.