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Games and Guns

Guv shares thoughts on the NFL and the complexity of responding to gun violence.


  • Enrique Limón/FILE

Gov. Gary Herbert spoke glowingly of the national anthem at a press conference Thursday, one day after National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell announced teams would be fined if players or personnel didn’t stand for the red-blooded display of patriotism. (Those who don’t wish to stand are allowed to stay in the locker room during the performance.)

“I come from an era when everybody put their hand over their heart. It’s surprising to me that we don’t have that respect,” Herbert told reporters. “I think as a show of respect and appreciation for what we have in this country, place your hand over your heart while you have the national anthem is something we all should do, and we ought not to have to be compelled to do it; we ought to do it because it’s the right thing to do because we understand the freedoms and liberties we enjoy.”

NFL players Colin Kaepernick, Malcolm Jenkins and Eric Reid, among others, knelt or raised their fists during “The Star Spangled Banner” rendition from the 2016 preseason to the 2018 season to protest systemic injustice and advocate for criminal-justice reform. They joined athletes like Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, to name a few, who have in past decades used their platform to shine light on injustices. Last September, President Trump publicly voiced his own thoughts on the protests at a rally in Alabama, asking the crowd, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired! He’s fired!’”

“It does not mean we’re capitulating and saying [the country is] perfect. There can be improvements,” Herbert, the leader of a state that does not have an NFL team, said of standing for the anthem. “But for heaven’s sake, stand up, stand tall for America, pledge allegiance to the flag during the national anthem and show it the respect it’s due.”

Herbert made the comments during a monthly press conference at KUED Channel 7 studios. He also said he used to be a member of the National Rifle Association, though he doesn’t know if he still is. “I think they’ve done some good things in protecting, advocating for Second Amendment rights, so I don’t want to lay at the feet of NRA the problems we have with school shootings.”

Herbert then pointed to mental-health issues and bullying.

“I think that would be too broad of a brush that we’re painting with,” he said. “There’s probably a lot of factors that go into the shootings that we’ve seen. There’s not just one answer to the problem—but it is a problem.”

Herbert said the state is being “very proactive” in how it is responding to recent school shootings across the U.S., as local officials have reviewed protocols with district across the state and have asked administrators for recommendations on what the state can do to decrease the risk of such tragedies happening in the Beehive State.

Asked if he backs several lawmakers’ proposed gun-reform bills, Herbert said he supports “the discussion” and acknowledged that many people agree on the need for comprehensive background checks. He also said many believe that people with criminal convictions and mental-health struggles should not possess a gun.

Herbert also stressed the need for “better counseling” and “better parenting,” emphasizing that there was no single solution to the gun violence on school campuses.

“We’re working with the front lines of law enforcement, we’re working with the principals of the schools, the superintendents, the local school boards to see if we in Utah cannot uniquely address this,” he said.