Damian Lillard Likens Attempts to Silence Athlete Protests to Slavery

Lillard discussed the #TakeaKnee protests with OPB yesterday.

Portland Trail Blazers' star guard Damian Lillard keeps speaking out.

On a Think Out Loud segment Thursday, Lillard spoke frankly with Oregon Public Broadcasting host Dave Miller about the role of athletes in political protest.

Related: Portland Has Apparently Rubbed Off on Damian Lillard, Who Is Now Vegan

Miller asked Lillard how it feels when people tell athletes to "just play the game," or tell players they don't want to hear their thoughts on politics.

Lillard said it was "very saddening" and likened the response of people who say things like "you should be grateful" to slavery.

"Looking at it now, how they just want us to go out and play basketball and you know, 'put that jersey on and be proud' and 'don't represent anything,' 'don't stand for anything,' 'don't have an opinion, just be respectful' and 'go out there and play for me'—it makes me think about kind of the way it was with slavery, when it was, they want the young, strong and you know, 'His arms are long and he's got big calves.' It reminds me of that," Lillard told OPB.

"They want us to go out and do what we're built to do. We're good athletes; we're physically strong; we're very capable…They don't want to know what we think; they don't care how we feel about something. It's just 'Go out there and do what your job is.'"

Lillard has been vocal about the role of athletes in politics, after hundreds of NFL players took a knee, locked arms or stayed in the locker room during the National Anthem last weekend to protest police brutality.

At Blazers Media day earlier this week, Lillard criticized President Donald Trump, who called athletes who kneedled during the National Anthem "sons of bitches."

“I think it’s sad that with all that’s going on in the world, our president is concerned with football and basketball,” Lillard told reporters. “What you saw yesterday with guys locking arms and kneeling and not coming out for the national anthem—I think that’s what it would take, that type of togetherness, to truly take a stand.”

Miller also asked Lillard how it feels to have the president call the athletes who kneel "sons of bitches." Lillard replied that he thinks it's "unfortunate," especially because sports have traditionally been unifying for people of different races.

"It's crazy because sports is one thing that people have always come together," Lillard said. "When you put a white guy and a black guy, regardless of what type of background they have you put them on the same team and they're able to come together and connect on a different level. It was unfortunate to see him bring that into sports and try to create that divide."

Lillard went on the say that he doesn't feel a divide on the Blazers, noting that "It seems like everyone's been on the same side of the fence."

Miller also asked Lillard if he could go to the White House if Trump invited him, to which Lillard simply replied: "No. I would not."

Damian Lillard's full Think Out Loud interview is available on opb.org

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