INDIANAPOLIS — Former Indianapolis Colts cornerback Antonio Cromartie said kneeling during the national anthem is what led to his release from the team in 2016.
Cromartie appeared on Bleacher Report’s “Untold Stories” video series, discussing his decision to take a knee while a member of the Colts.
Cromartie said the team was in a meeting in 2016, and then-Coach Chuck Pagano told the team he didn’t want them taking a knee during the anthem.
“When we go out on the football field, it’s about football,” Pagano said, according to Cromartie.
Cromartie seemed frustrated at an apparent double standard.
“When it’s about leukemia and your cancer, it’s cool,” Cromartie said. “But when it’s about police brutality and social injustice, it’s not cool. … I told [Pagano], straight up, ‘That’s bulls---.’”
Cromartie said before making the decision to kneel during the anthem, he asked his grandfather about it, who served in the Marines. He also said he asked other family members who served.
“We don’t agree with it, but it’s what we fought for,” Cromartie said his relatives told him. “We fought for you to serve that purpose. To go out and protest and have that freedom of speech.
Cromartie went on to kneel twice during the 2016 season in consecutive weeks. The first time, Cromartie said four team staffers tried to block people from seeing him and told him to stand up.
After kneeling for the second time a week later, Cromartie was benched at halftime. Against the Jaguars, Cromartie gave up four catches for 34 yards and a touchdown. He also committed three defensive penalties in the game.
A few days later, the Colts released him.
Cromartie said Pagano told him he was getting cut because the team was getting healthier.
“I’m like, ‘Dude, nobody healthy in the back end at all,’” Cromartie said. “It’s like, ‘Man, you ain’t gotta lie to me. Just tell me the truth.’”
Cromartie said Pagano denied that he got cut for kneeling during the anthem, but he didn’t believe that.
“I said, ‘Man, y’all ain’t finna sit here and just pay me three million damn dollars to now release me, and then talking about y’all just getting healthy.’ … I said, ‘You’re about to get fired anyway.’”
Cromartie said after getting cut by the Colts, he only had one workout by a team in 2017. Pagano did end up getting fired, but more than a year later, in December 2017.
But he still doesn’t regret taking a knee.
“Why should I?” he said. “Because at the end of the day, the only thing we did was give people a voice that didn’t have a voice. And it brought more attention to what really was going on.”
Watch the full Bleacher Report video below:
Former All-Pro CB @CRO31 says kneeling in 2016 led to his release from the Colts and ended his NFL career.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 30, 2019
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