Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry — a Trump-supporting Republican devoted to football generally and the Jaguars in particular — said it’s “stupid” not to stand during the national anthem, but that the “U.S. Constitution protects the right for a lot of people to do a lot of stupid things.”
Curry’s response to the Jaguars show of defiance Sunday — the first team in the nation to take the field after President Donald Trump’s controversial remarks Friday night slamming NFL players who stage protests during the anthem — holds off on criticizing either side directly.
The conflict between NFL players and Trump pits some of Curry’s loyalties against one another. Unusually, Curry didn’t comment or tweet anything about the Jaguars surprisingly strong 44-7 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
As the anthem played Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London, at least 15 Jaguars players, including some breakouts like Leonard Fournette, knelt. Jaguars owner Shad Khan and the rest of the team, including coaches and training staff, locked arms in a show of unity to protest Trump’s remarks.
Even more striking were Khan’s comments taking Trump head on: “We have a lot of work to do and we can do it, but the comments made by the president make it harder. That’s why it was important for us, and personally for me, to show the world that even if we may differ at times, we can and should be united in the effort to become better as people and a nation.”
Curry attended the game in London, and made the trip overseas on a plane along with the Jaguars players.
“I stand and cover my heart for the pledge and the anthem,” he said in a statement Monday morning. “I think it’s stupid to do otherwise. The U.S. Constitution protects the right for a lot of people to do a lot of stupid things. I am a Constitutional Conservative, so I respect the wisdom of our Founders.”
Curry’s statement, provided to the Times-Union in response to questions about the issue, sidesteps the more controversial aspects of Trump’s statements. The president demanded that NFL owners fire or suspend players who fail to stand for the national anthem. Curry also held back on criticizing the Jaguars as much or as directly as some residents, many of whom teed off on their local team on social media Sunday.
Khan is a frequent donor to Republican candidates, though he supported former Mayor Alvin Brown, a Democrat, during the 2015 election. Curry won that race, and Khan has since become a major political donor to Curry.
Khan is also one of the most important figures in Jacksonville economic development. He is currently in talks with city officials on a plan for a major development at Metropolitan Park and the Shipyards on downtown’s riverfront.