OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Two former Kansas City Chiefs voiced support for NFL players protesting during the national anthem after controversy erupted over the weekend.
President Donald Trump sparked the backlash after saying during a rally in Alabama that NFL owners should fire players who choose to sit or kneel during the pregame tradition.
More than 100 players sat or kneeled on the sidelines during national anthem ceremonies on Sunday, leading to discussions and debates with people all across the country.
During a charity golf outing at Nicklaus Golf Club at Lions Gate on Monday, former Chiefs linebacker Mike Maslowski said he supported the players who chose to kneel or sit.
"It's a situation where it's all about freedom of speech," he explained. "Ultimately, I see it as a challenge for change and a way to address things."
Maslowski played for the Chiefs from 1999 to 2004 and always stood during the singing of the anthem.
He told 41 Action News that the national anthem ceremony took on added significance following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
"The shock and the unifying of that (9/11) as a league and as a team was very riveting and important," he explained. "As I hear the national anthem, I think of all of our armed forces."
Sixteen years later, the pregame ceremony is now being used as a platform for protest.
"I really think football was just football then. It brought the community together," he explained. "To see where we are now, it's come a long way."
After seeing the protests on Sunday, Maslowski said important conversations could come from the matter.
"Hopefully, this causes enough dialogue, interest, and effort to make change," he explained. "It's not something I would have chosen to do but at the same time, I would have respected my teammates if they did."
Former Chiefs tight end Keith Cash voiced similar support for the players.
Cash told 41 Action News that the people outraged at the protest should not rush to judgment.
"It's not about disrespecting the flag, the people that have fought for our freedoms or the first responders," he said. "I think that the people that are up in arms about it may just want to take a step back and see what it's really about."
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the protest last season as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in response to civil rights and police brutality issues he believed were in the country.
A year later, the protest has grown tremendously following the comments from President Trump.
Moving forward, Cash hoped the protest could lead to progress on the issues being addressed.
"It's a peaceful protest," he explained. "Hopefully, it starts some dialogue. Hopefully, people are open to it."
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story had a different image of Chiefs players kneeling. The image was updated after a player tweeted he was kneeling in prayer and not in protest.