Stan Van Gundy: Athletes protesting inequality are "Role Models of American Patriotism"

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick  began the protests during the 2016 NFL preseason but although he remains a free agent the protests have continued

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick  began the protests during the 2016 NFL preseason but although he remains a free agent the protests have continued

The Pistons head coach wrote a powerful op-ed for TIME magazine Tuesday in which he applauds the growing number of athletes who have put their job security at stake by fighting against racism and social injustice through national anthem protests.

"In a time where bigotry seems on the rise and commitment to racial equality on the decline, I have an obligation as a citizen to speak out and to support, in any way possible, those fearless and patriotic athletes who are working to bring change to our country", Van Gundy wrote in an essay published by Time.

"Nationalism, he said, is supporting your country no matter what, right or wrong".

"Honoring America has to mean much, much more than standing at attention for a song (one which, by the way, contains racist language in later verses)", Van Gundy wrote.

"Many have said that these protests dishonor our country and our military men and women", Van Gundy asserted, but he made it clear that he sees them very differently.

We should never forget that this country was founded by protesters. He said that "protest has almost always been the catalyst for meaningful change", adding, "And it has always made people uncomfortable".

"What is it that they want?" Equal rights. Equal justice.

In the wake of many of these athletes receiving hateful criticism from fans and politicians, Van Gundy wrote he had an "obligation" to speak out. Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich seem to be the ones who grab the most headlines, especially when it comes to Donald Trump, but guys like Stan Van Gundy have also used their platform to advance a social agenda.

In his essay, Van Gundy listed "several specific changes" being sought by The Players Coalition, an informal group of National Football League players concerned about racial injustice. He lists several of the policy initiatives the group is working on, including the abolishment of mandatory minimum sentences and cash bail.

"These athletes and many others are risking future contracts and endorsement opportunities to speak out on issues of racial injustice because they feel duty-bound to do so".

"These athletes could take the easy route and not place their livelihoods at risk by standing up for what they believe in". The 58-year-old coach said Dyson's talk helped him understand there is a difference between nationalism and patriotism - something that is overlooked by those who have criticized athletes who protest during the anthem. They could accept their paychecks and live lives of luxury.