FACT CHECK: Did Kansas City Chiefs Owner Clark Hunt Say He Would ‘Immediately Fire’ Players And Staff Who Don’t Stand For The National Anthem?
An image shared on Facebook claims Kansas City Chiefs co-owner Clark Hunt told his players, coach and staff that he would “immediately fire” anyone who does not stand for the playing of the national anthem.
Hunt did not say the statement, though he publicly expressed support for his player standing during the national anthem in the past.
The Facebook post credits Hunt, the CEO and co-owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, with a statement about repercussions for not standing, with a hand over the heart, during the national anthem.
“You are all simply paid performers on a stage and that field is my stage,” Hunt allegedly said. “You will stand, with your hand over your heart and with respect, when our country’s national anthem is being played or you will no longer be a Kansas City Chief, a coach for the Kansas City Chiefs or have any association with the Chiefs organization. I will immediately fire you, no matter who you are!”
The comment first started circulating in 2016 amid debate over some football players’ decision to kneel during the national anthem. In an interview with the Kansas City Star that year, Hunt said it was an “internet hoax.” The comment about the field being “my stage” has previously been falsely attributed to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, according to the Dallas Morning News.
“It’s not something where I’ve spoken specifically to the players or any specific player about it,” Hunt told the Kansas City Star in 2016. “But the entire team knows that our desire is for them to stand during the national anthem.”
Brad Gee, the director of football communications for the Kansas City Chiefs, confirmed to The Associated Press that the claim is inaccurate. (RELATED: Did Tim Tebow Kneel During The National Anthem To Protest Abortion?)
Hunt has publicly said he prefers players to stand during the anthem in the past. In 2016, Hunt told the Kansas City Star, “For a couple years now, Coach Reid and the rest of the leadership of the team have spoken to the coaches and the team about the importance of standing during the national anthem. It’s not something that’s new this year. It’s something we’ve been focusing on for a couple of years.”
Several Chiefs players, including tight end Travis Kelce, have sat or taken a knee during the playing of the national anthem without being fired.
The claim that Hunt threatened to “immediately fire” players and staff who do not stand for the anthem resurfaced after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a video statement that the league believes “black lives matter.” His announcement supporting players’ peaceful protests came amid demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality that were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody in late May.