Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes wasn’t happy about Jim Kelley’s public criticism of the team’s players who knelt during the national anthem Sunday. Indeed, Hughes criticized Kelly for criticizing the Bills.
“I was very disappointed in him,” Hughes said, via quotes distributed by the team. “I was very disappointed in how he approached the whole situation. Our team came together and we united as a front, as an organization on how we were going to approach the national anthem. If Jim was going to do what he did, then he should have came to the team and let us know his feelings. He should have let us know how he was going to do the national anthem, because we didn’t know he was going to be there from a team perspective.
“So for him to carry on in this manner, I’m really confused, and I’m really upset, because if this is something how he felt and if this was something that truly was how he felt and was on his heart, he should have came to the team and he should have approached that instead of making this a public matter, and doing that on his social page. It was not cool, very unacceptable, and if he has things to say about us as a team, come talk to us.”
The Hall of Famer stood on the sideline with his right hand over his heart, his left arm raised with his Bills hat in hand, according to Mike Rodak of ESPN. Kelly later posted on Instagram that he would only kneel to pray, and wrote he hoped the Bills would “STAND” with locked arms next week.
Hughes wondered aloud why Kelly is on the sideline before games.
“I’m not sure I understand it,” Hughes said. “We are the 2017 Buffalo Bills. We’re focused on the future. We’re focused on winning games. If he wants to offer anything of encouragement to our team, to our quarterbacks, to our offense, please provide all of that. We could use all the encouragement we need to figure out how they won games back in those days and be successful as they were. We’re trying to bring a team together; we’re trying to bring the community together; we’re trying to bring a nation together. By dividing us, by dividing the team, that doesn’t work.”
Bills coach Sean McDermott said he has no plans to talk to Kelly, the face of the organization, adding the team will continue to welcome the former quarterback on the sideline.
In a radio interview Monday morning, Kelly singled out running back LeSean McCoy, who stretched his legs while protesting during the national anthem.
“I like LeSean McCoy, don’t get me wrong, but I totally, 100 percent, I disagree with what he did,” Kelly told 97 Rock in Buffalo, via Rodak. “You want to kneel? Fine. But when you go and do what he did yesterday, that sort of bummed me out. And I lost a lot of respect for him. . . . You want to kneel? That’s your prerogative. I would never do that. I will always stand. Thank the good Lord for everything I got. But when you disrespect the way he did and just go by his everyday duty in the national anthem being sung? Uh-uh. I won’t go for that.”
McCoy was not made available to reporters Monday.