Former cornerback Kevin Francis said this week that the moment he heard he was going to join “The Players Coalition” caused him to resign from the Pro Football Hall of Fame and walked away from other organizations.
Instead, he has returned to his family and has been involved in marches. He spoke Thursday at a rally at the Washington Monument, just weeks after former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started his kneeling protest during the national anthem.
As he joined Kaepernick and some players from other NFL teams in kneeling together, he talked about being called an “Uncle Tom” and a “cripple” by some fans. He also talked about being inspired by the men who marched and “watched and listened to what was being said.”
“It’s powerful,” Francis said. “I feel like when I would have sat down for this, you would have been like, ‘Oh, now you’re a whiner. But look at the emotion these men have.’”
Asked whether he would have joined the protest as a player, Francis said, “I feel like it’s our rights to express ourselves as athletes.
“I felt like if the president and the administration wants us to stand up, why don’t we do it? But at the same time, whether or not I would have knelt at that time … I don’t know, but if I was in that uniform, I would have.”
Francis retired in 2004 after a 14-year career and was drafted in the third round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, going to the Pro Bowl in 1999. He has been in Washington for quite some time, serving as a congressman’s district leader for Washington’s 5th Congressional District in the 1970s and often being active in the Ronald Reagan for President campaign in ’84 and ’84.
But he has been outside of politics for many years, returning to his family in East St. Louis, Ill., where he is the principal of Pompano Elementary School.
“I realized that I don’t have to be saying things that I don’t believe or even trying to bring this country down,” Francis said. “We’re in a time where there is a little bit of bad in our country. And my opinion doesn’t matter. I made a very mature and objective decision to resign from two offices to stand with my community and share my views with people, and make sure we don’t feel like we’re pawns in America anymore.”