Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy: Athletes who protest are 'patriots'

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In a first-person essay published for Time on Tuesday, Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy wrote that athletes such as Colin Kaepernick who have taken a knee or otherwise protested during the national anthem are “patriots of the highest order.”

“When these professional athletes protest during the anthem, they are exercising one of the very freedoms for which our military men and women fought so valiantly, thus honoring our highest values and, in turn, those who have fought for them,” Van Gundy wrote.

Van Gundy explained in the essay that he invited author and scholar Michael Eric Dyson to speak to the team, and Dyson’s explanation of the differences between nationalism and patriotism “stuck with me.”

“Nationalism, he said, is supporting your country no matter what, right or wrong,” Van Gundy wrote. “Patriotism, on the other hand, is caring so deeply about your country that you take it as your duty to hold it accountable to its highest values and to fight to make it the very best it can be. Under this definition, these athletes and coaches are role models of American patriotism.”

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Van Gundy, Pistons coach since 2014, joins several NBA coaches who have criticized President Donald Trump and supported athletes exercising their right to protest. That group includes David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies, Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors and Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.

In his essay, Van Gundy also offered public support for the NFL’s Players Coalition, a group of players working to push criminal justice reform. Former wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins thanked Van Gundy on Twitter for being the first member of the NBA to support the coalition.

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@gannett.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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