Marco Rubio Won't Boycott NFL Over Anthem Protests: 'They Have Free Speech Rights'

With the NFL officially starting Week 1 on Sunday, several people were expressing the intention to boycott the league if the players kneel during the national anthem. Sen. Marco Rubio is not among this group, however, as he revealed recently. The noted Miami Dolphins fan said that players have the right to protest.

"Look, I think players are Americans," Rubio said to TMZ Sports at Reagan Airport. "They have free speech rights to say whatever they want. At the end of the day, I watch sports because I root for these teams. And in my mind, it's one of the few places — I hope that's still left — where people with different political views can at least for three hours be on the same side."

As Rubio continued to explain, he believes that there are fewer places in the United States, where people with differing political opinions can come together and discuss their common interests. He said that people used to connect over having kids in the same schools or at the same church. Now he says that football is that place.

As a Dolphins fan, Rubio is used to seeing players kneel. Wide receiver Kenny Stills did so before a trade that sent him to the Houston Texans, as did fellow receiver Albert Wilson. Now the Dolphins remain in the locker room during the national anthem, but Rubio says that he wouldn't mind if they did choose to kneel.

"They're Americans," Rubio said. "People have a right to express their views whether you agree with them halfway, all the way or none of the way. It's the left, frankly, who has been trying to silence people whose views they don't agree with and I hope the right doesn't fall into that."

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Rubio's comments are very different than those expressed by President Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and other politicians. Several have called out the NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem and expressed the intention to boycott the league. Trump's son, Eric, even said that football "is dead" after a report that the Dallas Cowboys had given players the "green light" to protest.

When the various teams suited up on Sunday afternoon, they responded to the national anthem in different ways. Some teams remained in the locker room while others kneeled on the field. The New England Patriots, on the other hand, stood. The various teams prompted wild responses on social media from Twitter users, many of whom expressed outrage. Rubio was not among this group as he prepared to watch his beloved Dolphins.