Former NFL cornerback Domonique Foxworth said Friday that players kneeling for the national anthem are acting as the country's "conscience" in the face of a "pernicious drug of racism."
Foxworth appeared on a CNN panel to discuss the national anthem protests that are roiling the NFL, and he accused President Donald Trump of "egregious" racism. He said the whole country is "hooked on" a "pernicious drug of racism" and expressed disapointment that anyone could fail to support the protests.
"The players are acting as our conscience," Foxworth said. "This country is hooked on this pernicious drug of racism and has been for so long—the players are trying to help bring us to an intervention, and the response is, ‘No, I want to have fun and watch football.’ That's the wrong response."
Foxworth was responding to Trump’s comments that NFL team owners are afraid to confront players who kneel during the anthem, which panel members considered a racial dog whistle.
"I mean, it’s a dog whistle. I think everyone recognizes it," Foxworth said. "It's a pretty loud dog whistle that we all seem to be able to hear except for President Trump. So it’s unfortunate and it's disappointing."
Foxworth said he was not surprised like some of his friends were, however, because Trump has said other things he found offensive.
"I talked to a lot of players, one of which said he was brought to tears by hearing that, but I can't say I was that disappointed or surprised," Foxworth said. "This is no more egregious than plenty of other things he’s said about other groups."
CNN’s David Gregory said it was possible for people to have good-faith disagreements with both the substance and the form of the protest, but Foxworth disagreed that disagreement with the form of protest was genuine.
"I don't think that people disagree with the form as much as they disagree with the substance and then they find something in the form to disagree with," Foxworth said.
"They think it's an inappropriate way to register that form of protest," Gregory replied. "I think that can be a legitimate reaction."
The NFL player turned left-leaning sports writer still disagreed, and offered his own psychological explanation for why people react negatively to the protests.
"A lot of people come to decisions by instinct immediately, and then they find some rationale to support that without them even knowing it," Foxworth said. "I think that’s what’s happening. They see black players kneeling during the national anthem and they’re angry, and then they look for some reason to hate it."
Foxworth used spectator sports as an analogy, saying that the bias of fans for their teams is the same as the bias people feel for those of the same race.
"The Packers fans may see a play quite differently than a Bears fan. This is the same thing," Foxworth said. "We saw the racial numbers: black people seem to view this a lot differently."