Buccaneers lineman predicts 'uproar' if NFL players are forced to stand for national anthem


After three weeks of widespread protests, the NFL is facing increasing pressure to force its players to stand for the national anthem, but one veteran player believes that banning the demonstrations could have unintended consequences.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is playing his eighth NFL season, and while he has yet to protest the national anthem himself, he supports those who want to do so. In a recent interview with ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Oklahoma product predicted that players would have an overwhelmingly negative reaction if forced to stand.

"I don't think guys are gonna like it," he said. "I think it's gonna be an uproar if that is to happen because you're basically taking away a constitutional right to freedom of speech. If guys wanna have a, I guess you would call it a peaceful protest, I don't think it's right to take that away."

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How NFL players reacted during the national anthem in Week 5
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How NFL players reacted during the national anthem in Week 5
Oct 9, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo (left) and linebacker Anthony Barr (center) sing the national anthem prior to a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson (12) sits during the national anthem before the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; The New York Jets lock arms for the national anthem before the game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 08: Rodney McLeod #23, Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles raise their fists in protest during the playing of the National Anthem as teammate Chris Long #56 shows support before a game against the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field on October 8, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Arizona Cardinals 34-7. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 08: Xavier Cooper #96 of the San Francisco 49ers and other members of the team kneel during the National Anthem before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 08: Members of the Jacksonville Jaguars stand for the National Anthem before the start of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 08: The Los Angeles Rams are seen during the national anthem before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 8, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 08: Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, center, stands with arms locked with his team during the playing of the national anthem prior to the start of the game between the Carolina Panthers and the Detroit Lions on October 8, 2017 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Carolina defeated Detroit 27-24. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 09: The Minnesota Vikings lock arms during the national anthem prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on October 9, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 08: Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins (27), Eagles S Rodney McLeod (23), and Eagles DE Chris Long (56) stand together during the National Anthem before the game between the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles on October 08, 2017 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 08: Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters (22) sits during the National Anthem before the football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans on October 8, 2017 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Oct 8, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts players and personnel stand during the playing of the National Anthem before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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The NFL has tolerated national anthem protests for more than a year now, but their increased prevalence this season has made them more difficult to ignore. Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement on the issue earlier this week, expressing a desire to "move past" the debate and find a common solution.

"Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem," the statement read in part. "It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us."

Soon after, President Donald Trump, an outspoken critic of the anthem protests, praised the NFL for "finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem" via Twitter, though the league later clarified that there are no plans to force players to stand.

The league's current policy states that players "should" stand for the national anthem. Players are subject to disciplinary action for violating the rule, but the NFL has yet to exercise that power.

40 PHOTOS
NFL players, owners protest after criticism from Trump
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NFL players, owners protest after criticism from Trump
Sep 24, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts players kneel during the playing of the National Anthem before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Baltimore Ravens players kneel for the American National anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 25: Members of the Dallas Cowboys link arms and kneel during the National Anthem before the start of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan links arms with players during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: (L-R) Wide recceivers Chris Moore and Breshad Perriman of the Baltimore Ravens pray prior to kickoff during the NFL match between The Jacksonville Jaguars and The Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Jacksonville Jaguar players show their protest during the National Anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Patrick Omameh of the Jacksonville Jaguars kneels during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Jacksonville Jaguar players show their protest during the National Anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: (Editors Note: This image has been turned black and white) Jacksonville Jaguars enter te stadium during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills players kneel in protest during the National Anthem before a game against the Denver Broncos at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Denver Bronco players kneel in protest during the National Anthem before a game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) and teammates stand next to service members holding a giant US flag during the national anthem prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; The Cleveland Browns team stand and kneel during the National Anthem before the start of their game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers link arms during the national anthem prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (44) middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) running back Ameer Abdullah (21) outside linebacker Steve Longa (54) defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter (98) defensive end Armonty Bryant (97) defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson (91) and defensive end Cornelius Washington (90) kneel during the national anthem before the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
September 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets players lock arms during the national anthem before the game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Members of the Denver Broncos kneel during the playing of the national anthem prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; The Dallas Cowboys players, coaches and staff take a knee prior to the National Anthem before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the playing of the United Sates national anthem before a NFL International Series game against the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Members of the New England Patriots take a knee during the national anthem before a game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Some of the Miami Dolphins take a knee during the anthem prior to the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Members of the New England Patriots kneel for the national anthem before the start of the game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Patrick Omameh of the Jacksonville Jaguars kneels during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Oakland Raiders players sit on the bench during the national anthem prior to their game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder stands with cornerback Josh Norman (24) and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (26) and safety D.J. Swearinger (36) during the playing of the national anthem before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Oakland Raiders players sit on the bench during the national anthem prior to their game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Marcus Peters (22) protests next to running back Charcandrick West (35) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (98) during the National Anthem prior to the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Lance Kendricks (84) and tight end Martellus Bennett (80) sit on the bench during the national anthem prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Recording artist Meghan Linsey kneels after singing the national anthem before the game between the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
September 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets players lock arms during the national anthem before the game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan links arms with players during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: Members of the Chicago Bears stand arm-in-arm during the National Anthem before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs is seen taking a knee during the National Anthem before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at the StubHub Center on September 24, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 General view during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
At the start of the game protestors take a knee in support of the movement started by NFL player Colin Kaepernick, outside Lincoln Financial Field, in South Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2017. Similar protest are staged around the nation after US President Donald Trump named Kaepernick a Son of A Bitch at a recent rally. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 25: Strong safety Tyvon Branch #27 of the Arizona Cardinals links arms with staff and players during the National Anthem before the start of the NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Buccaneers haven't had nearly as many demonstrators as some other teams — to date, only two Tampa Bay players have knelt during the anthem this season, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. But despite that, McCoy says the entire locker room supports their right to protest.

"That's their right to do that. And if they're gonna do it, they're gonna have support of the whole team," said McCoy. "But if you take that away from them, there's gonna be an uproar. It's just gonna happen, because now it's just like you have a voice at one point, but then you don't at this point. And, that's our right ... it's a constitutional right that we have, and if you take that away, I don't think people are gonna take too kindly to it."

The issue is likely to be discussed next week at the NFL's annual fall meetings, set to begin on October 17. There will be a full slate of games before then, starting with a Thursday night showdown between the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles.

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