Jim Irsay speaks out against protests, did he cut Antonio Cromartie over it?

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Owners have mostly been quiet about the national anthem protests staged by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others.

But Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay isn’t one to keep his opinions to himself.

Irsay doesn’t like the protests. In a story about declining television ratings, Irsay told USA Today’s Jarrett Bell his feelings about Kaepernick and others.

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“I think it’s the wrong venue,” Irsay told USA Today. “It hasn’t been a positive thing. What we all have to be aware of as players, owners, PR people, equipment managers, is when the lights go on we are entertainment. We are being paid to put on a show. There are other places to express yourself.”

That doesn’t indicate Irsay was speaking specifically about the impact the protests have had on television ratings, but it’s a rare statement from an NFL owner against the protests (and it’s probably fair to assume some owners believe the protests are affecting ratings).

Irsay’s comment also brings some attention to a roster move the Colts made earlier this year.

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As Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star points out, the only Colts player who has taken a knee during the anthem was cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie was suddenly cut on Oct. 4 after a Colts loss at London. Doyel wrote that he wondered at the time if the move was over the protest. Terricka Cromartie, Antonio’s wife, wrote on Instagram after Irsay’s statement that she felt her husband was cut over protests. She also said Antonio was warned to not protest.

“one things for sure I know my husband was told Not to take a Knee and he went with his heart and he took one,” Terricka wrote on Instagram, according to the New York Post. “And that cost him his Job.. and Clearly this Statement backs that up.”

Antonio Cromartie took a knee during the national anthem before the Colts cut him (AP)
Antonio Cromartie took a knee during the national anthem before the Colts cut him (AP)

There are many reasons to cut a player, and the 32-year-old Cromartie was unsigned for months before the Colts added him and he hasn’t been picked up anywhere else. He started four games, but didn’t play well. He was viewed as an injury replacement when he signed. But after Irsay’s comments on protests, the Colts cutting the only player who protested doesn’t look like a coincidence.

Irsay wasn’t the only owner, at this week’s meetings, who spoke about the protests to Bell. Houston Texans owner Bob McNair didn’t speak out as strongly against the protests, but understood it might have an impact on the NFL audience.

“People come to the game because they want to get away from what’s happening in their everyday lives,” McNair told USA Today. “When you bring those types of things into the scene, yeah, it will turn some people off. But the main thing we try to do is to say, ‘We recognize your concern. Let’s do something about it.’”

(Yahoo Sports graphic by Amber Matsumoto)
(Yahoo Sports graphic by Amber Matsumoto)

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!