LB Jonathan Casillas
September 28, 2017
Q: Were any other Giants at the meeting you were at with other players and owners from around the league with Commissioner Roger Goodell?
A: Just me and [Giants President and CEO] John Mara.
Q: When was the meeting?
A: Tuesday night. This past Tuesday.
Q: Who was at the meeting?
A: It was some of the owners throughout the league Ė [New England Patriots Owner Robert] Kraft, the Jaguars owner (Shahid Khan), both of the family owners from the Cleveland Browns (Jimmy and Dee Haslam), [Pittsburgh Steelers Owner Art] Rooney, Miamiís [Owner Stephen] Ross, Philadelphiaís owner (Jeffrey Lurie). Players from certain teams Ė [Philadelphia defensive end] Chris Long, the McCourty twins (Cleveland Browns cornerback Jason McCourty and New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty) Ė Iím trying to just name everybody that was at the table. And Roger Goodell. We basically talked about the anthem, the kneeling that happened this past weekend and how we did show solidarity basically against Trumpís statement and what weíre going to do moving forward. Now, there was nothing ironed out, there was just a whole bunch of opinions being thrown out. I liked it because you got to see the opinions from the owners, and you got to see some of the opinions from the players as well. Stuff like that is very good, itís very proactive. Thank Trump for saying what he said because without him saying that, number one, the whole league wouldnít have been so collectively together and number two, we would never have had that meeting.
Q: How many people were at the meeting?
A: Between 20 and 30. 20-25.
Q: Was it in New York City?
A: Yeah, it was in the city at NFL Headquarters.
Q: Did you get the sense that Goodell wants players to stop kneeling?
A: Not really. Goodell, he wasnít really saying too much. He was kind of letting the owners and us (players) talk more than anything. And I know the owners for sure donít want us kneeling. Not because of what the message is, but itís what the message is getting across. People are totally misconstruing the kneeling thing, from the beginning, from when [quarterback Colin] Kaepernick did it in the beginning. Everybodyís talking about the players disrespecting the flag and itís never been written and itís never been said (in history) anything about kneeling down is disrespecting the flag. But thereís other things that we do as Americans on a consistent basis that is considered disrespectful towards the flag. Like, laying it horizontally, like we do for every home game. Showing it on shirts and merchandise, wearing it as a bandana. Thatís actually considered disrespectful. So, when people say youíre disrespecting the flag, as in an NFL player is disrespecting the flag, in what manner? Like, who said that was disrespectful to the flag when we actually do it as Americans on a consistent basis. Not only that, Kaepernick and everybody that has kneeled has consistently said, ĎWeíre not doing it to disrespect the flag.í We have nothing but the most upmost respect for not only the flag, but what it represents. The military and the people that serve, the soldiers that we lost and fought for our freedom. So, itís been totally misconstrued and me personally, I donít think kneeling is conducive for us as players, for the league because itís been totally misconstrued. And it hasnít just happened this past weekend, itís been going on since Kaepernick did it last August. So, maybe weíve got to figure something else out, another way to maybe get across the reason why the protest happened from the beginning, which is because of social injustices that have been happening to minorities since the beginning of time. Thatís the reason why the kneeling has happened from the beginning. And that point doesnít really get across when you have a conversation. Like, it took me about five minutes just now just to say it. And thatís the point. The kneeling has kind of gotten blown out of proportion. This past week was a show of solidarity throughout the league, with owners and the players against what the President said about this great league that weíre in. And the talks that Iíve had, itís like, alright, maybe we shouldnít focus on the flag and the kneeling. But focus on actually what this shield represents, what the NFL shield represents. There is at least 90% of guys in this locker room that have done community service work, food drives and give what to whatever Ė charities, foundations. About 90% of the guys do stuff like that on a consistent basis. And that really doesnít get that much light. We all have hearts and we all try to show it. Some people are bad, some people are good. But at the end of the day, the majority of us, we always try to do the right thing and weíre always trying to support the right cause. Kaepernick, ever since heís kneeled down, heís only done the right thing since heís kneeled down. Maybe he didnít do the right thing before that, but since heís kneeled down, heís only done the right thing. I mean, the whole socks situation Ė which I just found out about, I didnít know about that Ė but, heís trying to react and do it for what he did in the beginning, which is the kneeling. And heís donated his salary and jersey sales and all of that. And you know what? We kind of left Kaepernick to hang. I think so. Collectively. We all did it as the NFL, with the owners included in all that, with the coaches and everything. I donít want to compare him to Rosa Parks in any type of way. But the situation is similar. What Rosa Parks did when she sat in the front of the bus and did not get up, that was the craziest thing that anybody has done. Disrespectful to white people, disrespectful to the country, disrespectful to the laws that we had established. Because those were the laws back then. But you know what? The whole black race, minorities in general, were behind Rosa Parks. And stuff got done because of that. Laws were changed because of that. And when Kaepernick kneeled, he didnít receive any support from a lot of us. And now, itís like, okay, weíre kneeling with him now. Are we really kneeling with him now? Are we? Or are we going against what President Trump said? So, itís tough. Iíve never really been political and Iíve never posted anything, I just stay reserved to myself, but I had an opportunity to have this meeting with these owners and talk with them and discuss where weíre at as a league. Weíre at a trying time right now, with all the racial situations Ė the kneeling, the (perception of) disrespecting of the flag, and also fans pulling away from the greatest professional sports league in the country. And thatís being considered, itís being felt by owners and players. Itís something that I think moving forward, we have to address. Last weekend was a tough weekend. Everybody was paying attention, Iím pretty sure this weekend coming up everybody is going to be watching the beginning of the game this week.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for the best way to get the message that the players are trying to send across? Or were there any solutions suggested at the meeting?
A: Well, there was a whole bunch of ideas out there. And for me, just thinking because the league is such a great league, the NFLís a great league, we all work together, somehow, someway, and shine a light on what players are doing. The things that [Philadelphia safety] Malcolm Jenkins is doing should be always on the forefront. Heís doing so many great things. What Chris Long is doing, donating his first six game checks to Charlottesville. Like, stuff like that needs to be headlines. Not what Trump said. Not the kneeling. Stuff like that. Because itís done by players underneath the shield and itís all very productive and proactive things that are moving towards a direction that we all should be moving towards. Which is, social equality, maybe fixing some stuff in legislation. And right now, I feel like the owners are giving us them. Theyíre offering us their help and we should be able to take advantage of that and do something as a unit and then do something as a league. To not only show that we mean business, and the protesting wasnít just to go against Trump, and the protesting wasnít about disrespecting the flag, but it was actually about the racial injustices and the problems that we have inside of our country that happens and consistently happens since I was a kid and since before I was a kid and since you guys were kids. Itís been happening forever and itís probably going to continue to happen, but as long as weíre here on this earth as human beings, I think we should be able to try and make a difference. And I think thatís what a lot of guys are trying to do when they kneel. Itís just getting lost and misconstrued.
Q: Did you bring what was discussed at the meeting to the team?
A: I spoke to a lot of the leaders on the team and the guys that we brought up to Maraís office. I kind of briefed it over with them and just let them know that thereís no decisions being made. Thereís just a whole bunch of opinions and people with thoughts and discussions that are going on. Thereís nothing thatís made final. But at the end of the day, are you willing to help? Are you willing to not protest, but be proactive in what we believe in? If we believe that there are racial injustices and social injustices that we face and people from black communities face, what are we going to do about it? Are we just going to try to kneel down and spread awareness, or are we actually going to take action? Weíve got the owners on our side, they have many contacts and people that they can talk to that we canít. And we have them on our side. So, we should be able to use them to our advantage and hopefully we can make changes. Hopefully we can make changes while Iím here in the league still. And thatís all we want and hopefully that can happen.