Jesse Williams, popular star of "Grey's Anatomy," spoke to MSNBC's Thomas Roberts on Sunday, where he expressed his beliefs on why NFL players have been a part of the national anthem ceremony conducted prior to NFL games.
The tradition of playing the national anthem during American games has a long history dating back nearly 100 years, but NFL players were not included in the pregame ceremony until 2009.
What did he say?
Williams said he believed that the idea of including football players as part of the national anthem ceremony is actually a "scam" designed by the government in order to convince "boys and girls to go fly overseas and kill people."
"This anthem thing is a scam," he said, adding, "This is not actually part of football."
What is his theory about the pregame national anthem?
"[The pregame national anthem] was invented in 2009 from the government [by] paying the NFL to market military recruitment," Williams explained, and said that its intent was "to get more people to fight wars to die."
He added, "This [has] nothing to do with the NFL or the American pastime or tradition. This is to get boys and girls to go fly overseas and go kill people."
Williams opined that the government is "marketing and pumping millions of dollars into the NFL" in order to "get you to go off and fight."
What do his comments mean?
Williams was was referring to the concept of "paid patriotism" during his discussion with Roberts.
"Paid patriotism" was a practice brought to light by Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake after the two released a 2015 statement that tore into both the Defense Department and the U.S. National Guard for dumping taxpayer funds into NFL promotions.
McCain and Flake reported that the Defense Department had been utilizing "paid patriotism" in football — as well as other televised sports — between 2011 and 2014.
A portion of the report reads:
Contrary to the public statements made by DOD and the NFL, the majority of the contracts — 72 of the 122 contracts we analyzed — clearly show that DOD paid for patriotic tributes at professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer games. These paid tributes included on-field color guard, enlistment and reenlistment ceremonies, performances of the national anthem, full-field flag details, ceremonial first pitches͕ and puck drops. The National Guard paid teams for the “opportunity” to sponsor military appreciation nights and to recognize its birthday. It paid the Buffalo Bills to sponsor its Salute to the Service game. DOD even paid teams for the “opportunity” to perform surprise welcome home promotions for troops returning from deployments and to recognize wounded warriors. While well intentioned, we wonder just how many of these displays included a disclaimer that these events were in fact sponsored by the DOD at taxpayer expense. Even with that disclosure, it is hard to understand how a team accepting taxpayer funds to sponsor a military appreciation game, or to recognize wounded warriors or returning troops, can be construed as anything other than paid patriotism.
Prior to 2009, NFL players were not required to be present on the field during the playing of the national anthem.
Dan Bongino, former Secret Service agent and New York Police Department officer, tore into Williams' claims during the Monday airing of Fox News' "Fox & Friends," where he called the actor a "clown" and a "joker."
"What planet does this clown live on?" Bongino asked. "Is this joker serious that this is some kind of a scam?"
He added, "You know what's a scam? Hollywood continuing to take our money while they crap all over Americans who give their hard-earned money to watch these people entertain us, and then turn around the very next day and call us all 'deplorables,' idiots, and they make fun of us all the time."