The Cincinnati Bengals made a unified, silent statement Sunday at Green Bay in response to President Donald Trump when players and coaches stood with their arms locked during the national anthem.
Monday afternoon, safety George Iloka broke that silence when asked if he took President Trump’s words personally.
“It’s Donald. Take it with a grain of salt. Dude’s a clown,” Iloka said. “You have to take him serious because he’s the leader, if you want to call him that, of the free world. I put ‘free’ in quotations. But you’ve got to take what he says with a grain of salt. One day it’s this, the next day it’s that. He says a lot just for outrage and clicks and things like that. It worked for his election.
“He’s offended a lot of people,” Iloka continued. “So I’ll join the line of people who’ve been offended by Donald Trump.”
Iloka was responding to comments Trump made at a political rally in Alabama on Friday, when he said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired.’”
Iloka said it wasn’t the specific language Trump used that bothered him, but the overall message.
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“Regular people, civilians, employers, your boss, my boss, whatever it may be, it’s different when they say those things,” Iloka said. “But when a politician, a government official is telling the public to essentially punish other citizens for exercising their right, that kind of throws off the purpose.
“I know those soldiers went overseas and fought for my rights,” he continued. “But it’s contradicted if the same rights that they fought for and died for, the President is trying to punish me for it. Why fight for it if you’re going to punish us for exercising it?”
The Bengals are one of the few teams that have yet to have a player take a knee during the anthem since Colin Kaepernick began the practice last season.
Asked if there was directive for the coaching staff or front office that they not do it, Iloka took a long pause before answering.
“There’s been discussions,” he said. “What we ended up doing yesterday was a team effort and something that we all came together and decided to do.”