Jesse Williams Calls National Anthem a Marketing 'Scam' Following NFL Protests

The actor and activist says anthem is used to "get boys and girls to go fly overseas and go kill people"

Jesse Williams says national anthem is used to "get boys and girls to go fly overseas and go kill people." Credit: John Sciulli/Getty Images

Jesse Williams is the latest public figure to add his voice to the ongoing conversation surrounding football and the national anthem.

On MSNBC Sunday night, Williams took President Trump to task for his controversial remarks about national anthem protesters over the weekend, in which he called anyone who refused to stand for the anthem a "son of a bitch."

Williams, who has been vocal about social issues in the past, pointed out that the national anthem wasn't historically even a part of NFL tradition; it's only in more recent times that it has been played at the start of each game.

"I think, Thomas, it's also important to realize that this anthem thing is a scam," he told MSNBC host Thomas Roberts. "This is not actually part of football. This was invented in 2009 from the government paying the NFL to market military recruitment – to get more people to go off and fight wars to die. This has nothing to do with NFL or American pastime or tradition. This is to get boys and girls to go fly overseas and go kill people. They're marketing. They're pumping millions and millions of dollars into the NFL to put on a pageant in front of NFL football games to get you to go off and fight."

Roberts responded with a simple, "Right."

Williams also ripped into NFL owners for not only declining to sign Colin Kaepernick, who was the first to take a knee during the national anthem last season, but also for donating millions of dollars to Trump's campaign.

"I think we have a perception that athletics is entirely a meritocracy and the NFL proves that. … We know that seven or eight owners gave Donald Trump $1 million each and are friends with a horrible guy who thinks he's a dictator, who treats America like it's a game show," he said, calling out "an incredible level of cowardice and selfishness in the ownership class in this particular league in this particular topic."

Williams later took to social media to continue his remarks, elaborating on some of the points he made during the live broadcast.

"#PaidPatriotism Less than 10 years ago, the Dept of Defense and National Guard began paying the @NFL to trot its players onto the field for staged military marketing and recruiting ceremonies," he captioned a clip from the Denver Broncos game from the weekend. "#Selling #Buying #Dying #TakeAKnee #ImWithKap #TakeTheKnee #MAGA #BlackLivesMatter #BlueLivesMatter #AllLivesMatter @MSNBC."

"No group of people has ever received respect without demanding it of themselves," he captioned another clip of himself speaking out against the administration.

Major sports figures like Michael Jordan, Steve Kerr and Tom Brady spoke out denouncing Trump's divisive messaging Sunday, with some celebrities calling for a boycott of the NFL altogether in response to the league’s seemingly concerted mistreatment of Kaepernick.

"God bless every player that finds courage to kneel today. But the real power comes from you deciding to not watch," singer J. Cole wrote in part in a series of tweets Sunday.