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NFL Players Association president says telling athletes to "shut up and play" is "dehumanizing"

"The Takeout": State of the NFL & its relationship with Trump

NFL Players Association President Eric Winston cautioned against the potential for "dehumanizing" athletes by telling them to "shut up and play." On this week's episode of "The Takeout," Winston and Mark Leibovich, author of the new book "Big Game," discussed football and American politics with "Takeout" host and CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett.

Winston pushed back on President Trump's vocal condemnation of athletes like Colin Kaepernick who have chosen to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem as a protest of police brutality, and to fans who would rather athletes stay quiet on politics.

"Should we spare you the money we're raising in our communities to better our communities? Should we spare all the philanthropic things that we've done, the visits to hospitals, the things outside of the game that we've done? Everybody cheers those," Winston said.

Listen to this episode on Stitcher

Winston said that this desire for athletes to stifle their political beliefs was connected to denial of the health risks involved with football, namely the long-term effects of continuous concussions.

"You have this dehumanization of, 'Who cares if they have brain trauma? Who cares if they get hurt? Who cares about them?' Right? 'Shut up and play,'" Winston said. And he argued that opposition to athletes who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality against black people "isn't even about the flag anymore," but is about making a political statement.

"I don't think that they really want to listen to what the players are saying," Winston said about critics of the protests, including Mr. Trump.

Leibovich added that the increasing angst over football relating to topics such as athletes kneeling and the lasting trauma of concussions mirrored the political divides in the United States. "There's a sense that this game might not be in step with the cultural realities of a changing country," Leibovich said.

Leibovich also noted the immense revenue value that players hold for the NFL and team owners: "They profit immensely, to degrees that you could not imagine...and they don't have to keep any of the physical toll because they're not on the field."

For more of Major's conversation with Mark Leibovich and Eric Winston, download "The Takeout" podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or Spotify. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).

Producers: Arden Farhi, Katiana Krawchenko, Jamie Benson and Sara Cook

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