Former Ravens receiver Torrey Smith: NFL 'dropped the ball' with new national anthem policy

Former Ravens and Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith said the NFL has “dropped the ball” with its new policy requiring players to either stand during the national anthem or stay in the locker room.

The outspoken Smith, who was traded to Carolina in March after winning his second career Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles, said after the Panthers’ organized team activity Tuesday that the league’s new rule, adopted last week at the NFL owners meeting, could “stir things up.”


“Which is the problem, because you're stirring things up because you've been told to be quiet,” Smith said. “It could've been done together to figure out what we can do to move forward and what would be best for the players. The whole reason guys were protesting was to draw awareness to something. To take that away and be, ‘Hey, don't do that anymore,’ like you're anti-American or something like people try to paint, it is very frustrating to continue to see that false narrative.”

The former Terp and Raven got a bobblehead, appeared on CNN, made a viral video and got feted in Philadelphia.

Smith, who started his career with the Ravens in 2011, playing four seasons in Baltimore, called the policy “reactive.” He said it casts players such as Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, whom he played with on the San Francisco 49ers, as “villains” for kneeling during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“Guys aren't against the military,” Smith said. Kaepernick “originally started it against police brutality. It was never against the military, it was never about the military, but that narrative changed.

“The NFL is trying to do right by donating money to a lot of different causes that are helping people, oppressed areas in our country, underprivileged areas in our country, which is a great thing. But you do that and then you also tell your guys to stand up when they're protesting when, honestly, I thought it had died off in a lot of different ways. [When] you have the league putting this in, it almost makes it seem like a guy like Kaepernick or Eric Reid, the guys who started it, what they did was in vain, that they were villains. That's not the case.”

Ravens senior vice president for public and community relations Kevin Byrne said the team wouldn't be commenting on the new policy.

Smith said the new rule will “probably” lead to further responses from players.

“But if you do it, you see it, it takes away even further from what the message was, which was against police brutality, which evolved to the criminal justice system and a lot of other inequalities that we have in this country,” he said. “So it's frustrating to see that the NFL had the opportunity to kind of right the wrongs and change the narrative that's best for everyone — people who are offended by protests and a league that's 70 percent African American that understands and lived a lot of these problems that guys are protesting about. So dropped the ball there, but we'll see where it goes."

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