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Transcript: Torrey Smith on NFL's national anthem policy

On the NFL's new national anthem policy: 

"I think when you see a reactive policy – and when I say that I mean something that's done in response to what guys have done in the past – I always think that's a problem, especially when the message has been changed. Guys aren't against the military. (Colin Kaepernick) originally started it against police brutality. It was never against the military, it was never about the military, but that narrative changed.

"The NFL is trying to do right by donating money to a lot of different causes that are helping people, oppressed areas in our country, underprivileged areas in our country, which is a great thing. But you do that and then you also tell your guys to stand up when they're protesting when, honestly, I thought it had died off in a lot of different ways. (When) you have the league putting this in, it almost makes it seem like a guy like Kaepernick or Eric Reid – the guys who started it – what they did was in vain, that they were villains. That's not the case.

"You're disappointed but not surprised because, at the end of the day, the league is all about money, it's a business. But to try to silence guys when they're trying to do the right thing for our country, I mean, I really don't know what to say about it."

On the policy possibly creating reactions from players: 

"I think it could stir things up, which is the problem because you're stirring things up because you've been told to be quiet. It could've been done together to figure out what we can do to move forward and what would be best for the players. The whole reason guys were protesting was to draw awareness to something. To take that away and be, 'Hey, don't do that anymore,' like you're anti-American or something like people try to paint – it is very frustrating to continue to see that false narrative.

"You're going to see reactive things from guys, probably. I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. But if you do it, you see it, it takes away even further from what the message was, which was against police brutality, which evolved to the criminal justice system and a lot of other inequalities that we have in this country. So it's frustrating to see that the NFL had the opportunity to kind of right the wrongs and change the narrative that's best for everyone – people who are offended by protests and a league that's 70 percent African American that understands and lived a lot of these problems that guys are protesting about. So dropped the ball there, but we'll see where it goes."

On what he wants to see changed about the criminal justice process: 

"I think you can look at everything from the bail system, which leaves thousands of innocent people – I can't even say innocent, people who aren't even charged at the end of the day – leaves them in jail which leads to them losing their job because they're missing time. I know in Philadelphia specifically, you have a bunch of people who are locked up because they can't afford a hundred dollars to get out of jail. It sets their families back, and it continues that poverty cycle that we've seen in a lot of inner cities. You see there's a lot of different offenses where it's clearly black and white for the same crime where the penalties are different, and that's a problem.

"The system in general, I think there needs to be more rehabilitation versus just simply throwing people in jail which I like to call 'a big timeout' because it doesn't really do anything if the person doesn't change his mindset or they come home to the exact same environment they were in. I come from that.

"My mother was a convicted felon when I was growing up, so I saw firsthand how hard it was for her even though she continued to educate herself and changed her life. It was hard for us growing up because of bad decisions that she made. Fortunately, she was given a second chance and got her rights back. She was able to go from we're barely above the poverty line to all of a sudden she's able to make six figures because she continued to educate herself and continued to work. I know there's thousands of people out there like my mother who are doing what she did in terms of trying to go forward and who have the ability to change their lives.

"With our system, the way it's set up with felons, it's like a life sentence. I mean, what kind of hope do you have if you're going to spend your entire life knowing no matter what I do, I can't get a loan here, l can't live in this neighborhood because of my record? I'm qualified to do this job or to do whatever, but I can't make it over that hump financially because I can't get hired because of my record and my past. That's one thing that hits home for me personally that I would like to see changed. Some states are doing a better job, but there are so many different things, and it's not an easy fix."

On what players can do to reshape the narrative to the issues that are important to them: 

"To me, it's just continuing to focus on the work that guys have been doing and will continue to do – and continue to learn. A lot of people look at athletes as if they're pure activists. We're just trying to do our part, and we aren't going to be able to do it alone. Just like it's not the NFL's sole fight to change the world. But the NFL has an opportunity to have a big influence being that the league is 70 percent African American, and their employees, their fans is a large portion of that. So you have an opportunity to bring a lot of people together.

"Think about how many people dislike each other or don't agree on so many different things, but they're in that stadium over there, and they are all together for one common cause. Football is the perfect place – not necessarily the perfect place – but perfect for men and women to be able to bring everyone together. Again, it's not an easy fix, and it's going to be a long time, but we're just trying to do our part. That's essentially what the protest started with, and we have to continue with. It's not so much about the protest, it's about the work going forward."

On how he would characterize the players' meeting with David Tepper last week: 

"I wasn't in there, but I heard it was awesome. I heard he's a great guy. He's very passionate about winning and the community. Whenever you see or hear that, that's a positive sign, because for me I always feel like you have a responsibility. To whom much is given, much is required.

"Being in a city like this, there are a lot of people whose Monday mornings depend on how we do on Sundays. A lot of them are struggling but the Panthers give them hope in their personal lives. It's awesome that (Tepper) has come in right away and embraced the community. And keep the main thing the main thing, which is winning."

On Tepper's thoughts about the new anthem policy: 

"I didn't hear exactly what he said about that. But, I mean, it's all the same at the end of it. It's a policy. It's a business. That's what they did. Like I said, it's disappointing but I'm not surprised."

On those who say NFL players should stay in their lane: 

"If that's the case I might as well leave my wife and two kids back at home and not worry about them. Football is what we do, it's not who we are. When we're here, we're working. When we go home, we have regular lives just like everyone else. I have to hope my four-year-old didn't pee on the toilet, you know? I have to hope my two-year-old isn't breaking all the eggs up like he did this past weekend. I mean, we have problems just like everyone else. More importantly, a lot of us come from backgrounds where we know exactly what a lot of people are dealing with. It's bigger than the game.

For me, it has always been an outlet to be a football player and to have this platform. One of the greatest blessings about it hasn't been what it has been able to do for me financially but what I've been able to do to help others, because I know what it's like, and I would have loved to have had someone to look up to being in that position. It's just a blessing to be able to help others."


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