Ex-Giants LB Jonathan Casillas Talks Race and Protest in the NFL

Steve Somers Show
June 08, 2020 - 12:44 pm

“This is such a big issue that a pandemic got pushed to the side.”

Those are the strong words of ex-Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who joined Steve Somers for an impassioned appearance on WFAN late Friday night to speak about the NFL’s responses to the unrest surrounding the death of George Floyd.

In the nearly 18-minute call-in, Casillas heavily discussed Colin Kaepernick’s protests, and both praised and questioned the statement put out last week by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“Years ago, I was asked about Colin Kaepernick, and I feel we let him down, because enough players didn’t really stand up for him. But let’s be honest: he got frozen out of the NFL…I don’t have proof that Roger Goodell did it, but he allowed it to happen and didn’t stick up for him,” Casillas opined. “For (Goodell) to go back and say what he said, it’s like, if you really are the person you say you are, then you should be listening to your players. We make up so much of the league, and we pour everything into it. For somebody to be able to give up their job for something they believe in, that says a lot. That’s a true testament to his character. I think (Goodell’s) words are a step in the right direction, but, it’s almost like a slap in the face, too.”

Casillas, who was born and raised in New Jersey and spent the final three seasons of his career with Big Blue, had hope that Goodell’s statement was indeed a sincere step forward for the league.

“I’m trying to stay positive about it all. It’s a good thing that he said what he said, and I hope he was (sincere),” Casillas said, “because this is such a big issue that a pandemic got pushed to the side.”

Casillas also commented on both the statement about kneeling during the national anthem and subsequent apology from Saints quarterback Drew Brees, whom Casillas spent the first four years of his career playing with in New Orleans.

“To be honest, I don’t question Drew Brees’ character. I speak very highly of Drew, he’s one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known. But to hear him say that, it hurt my feelings,” Casillas said. “I don’t think he’s a racist, but I think this problem is that serious, that someone with such great character can still be tone-deaf and say what he said. Drew is very intelligent, and you wonder why he’d even bring it up.”

Brees notably said that “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag” when asked about players potentially kneeling this season, a statement that earned immediate and strong backlash from many. He later issued an apology on his Instagram page, one that was appreciated by teammates and contemporaries alike – and also, in making that statement, later even rebuked President Trump after the President Tweeted about the apology and implored that Brees shouldn’t have changed his tune.

Casillas, in particular, was happy to see all of that.

“It was bad for (Brees) to say, but his response was great. He basically condemned Donald Trump, and said that he learned he has to be open-minded, and knows it’s wrong that he said what he said,” Casillas said, later adding this about leadership by example: “How can we expect to see someone like Drew say everything right, when we watch this guy (President Trump) every day, always say everything wrong?”

In the end, as he has watched the effects of the unrest unfold throughout the country, Casillas simply wanted to spread the message that those fighting for change can best do so together.

“I feel like everybody wants to do something, and with social media, everybody can do something. But let’s do it with love, with unity in our minds and hearts,” Casillas said. “We can’t do this in a divisive fashion, we have to do it together. We have to get people to understand, and get them on our side to help us, and the only way we’re going to have change is if we do this together.”

You can listen to the entire interview with Casillas and Steve Somers below.