Jets' Jermaine Kearse dismisses Donald Trump ripping NFL players as 'distraction' from progress

Kearse spoke after the Jets beat the Dolphins on Sunday.

EAST RUTHERFORD -- Jermaine Kearse didn't raise his voice or get emotional. He spoke in a calm and measured tone Sunday while brushing off President Donald Trump's vulgar comments about NFL players who exercise free speech by protesting the national anthem. 

Kearse, a wide receiver, and his Jets teammates all stood for the anthem before Sunday's 20-6 win over the Dolphins. The Jets -- including acting owner Christopher Johnson and general manager Mike Maccagnan -- all locked arms, which they don't usually do. 

Across the NFL on Sunday, players (and entire teams) protested the anthem by kneeling or remaining in the locker room. 

After the Jets' win, Kearse called Trump's critical comments merely "a distraction" from the progress Kearse believes America is making with social and racial justice issues. 

"Honestly, I think things are going in the right direction, and I look at his comments as just a distraction," Kearse said. "Just trying to distract from where we're headed as a country. I think people are starting to understand what is going on in this country.

"You've just got to stay away from the distractions and look at the main issues and keep the main issues what they are. I think as a team, we're going to continue to be unified in this. We're going to continue to fight the good fight together." 

Credit Todd Bowles for Jets' big win

The Jets decided at Saturday night's team meeting that they would lock arms and stand for the anthem. Before Sunday's game, in the locker room, Johnson approached players and asked if he could join them. Rookie running back Elijah McGuire said Johnson briefly opened up to him.

"He just told me what was going on, and how he felt about the situation," McGuire told NJ Advance Media. "He just said he was angry at what was going on." 

Defensive lineman Leonard Williams, one of the Jets' biggest stars, did not directly address Trump's ripping of protesting NFL players. But Williams said he supports those players. 

"We have the freedom of speech," Williams said. "We have freedom to protest. We have freedom to say whatever we want to say. I support anybody that wants to do that." 

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins got more fired up than Kearse -- his longtime friend from the Seattle area -- while addressing Trump's comments. It bugs Seferian-Jenkins that the uncouth comments themselves get so much more attention than broader societal problems. 

"Honestly, people should be focusing on the issues, not about what someone says," Seferian-Jenkins said. "There are bigger issues. I understand that he said something. I understand someone else said something. But there are actual issues that need to be addressed that affect people's lives. Not just a tweet.

"I don't care about the tweets. I don't think anyone should care about the tweets. I think people should actually focus on the really important issues that are going on that are affecting people's lives. It's sad that everyone is just so focused on a tweet and not focused on the actual issues that affect people on a daily basis on both sides." 

What now for Hackenberg?

Seferian-Jenkins called Johnson joining the Jets for the anthem "the perfect example of what we're trying to do -- unity."

Kearse loved it, too. 

"I thought it was a great thing," he said. "I thought it was a good chance for us to become one and show that we're a team and we're in this fight together. You don't get really far doing things individually. You get further doing it as a team, and that's what we decided to do." 

At Saturday's team meeting, as the Jets decided to lock arms, their 53-year-old head coach, Todd Bowles, spoke to his players about social and racial justice problems that have ebbed and flowed during his lifetime. 

"Coach Bowles came in and gave us a little history lesson, told us about some of the issues that have been plaguing our country for a number of years," said left tackle Kelvin Beachum. "[He is] somebody that went through it, that actually could attest to the times that used to be even worse than it is right now." 

Darryl Slater may be reached at dslater@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @DarrylSlater. Find NJ.com Jets on Facebook.

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Article Jets' Jermaine Kearse dismisses Donald Trump ripping NFL players as 'distraction' from progress compiled by www.nj.com