September 25, 2017 / 11:07 PM / a year ago

Golf - International team not joining U.S. anthem protest

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) - The International team at this week’s Presidents Cup will not follow in the footsteps of NFL players who responded to criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump by staging silent protests during the U.S. national anthem.

Tony Johnstone, an assistant to International team captain Nick Price, said on Monday his squad of 12 players from around the world, excluding Europe, discussed the issue and decided it best not to get involved.

“We’ve had a unanimous agreement that none of us are Americans, so it’s got absolutely bugger all to do with us,” Johnstone said at Liberty National, where the biennial event between the International and U.S. teams begins on Thursday.

“I don’t think we’re in a position to talk about it. Our view is we’re here to play golf, we’re here as sportsmen, we’re not interested in politics.

“What the hell does it got to do with us anyway? It’s an American thing. We’re just biting our lips. We don’t want to get involved.”

Johnstone’s comments came a day after dozens of NFL players, coaches and even some owners joined in silent protest at games against Trump’s call for owners to fire players who do not stand during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

The protests began last year when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequities last year. No NFL team has signed Kaepernick for this season.

Johnstone is from Zimbabwe, a country that has had its share of political turmoil over the years, so he knows how it feels to hear foreign citizens lecture how his country should be run.

“If somebody came from overseas to my home country and started pontificating ‘you should do this, you should do that,’ I’d say ‘why don’t you get stuffed, it’s got nothing to do with you,’” said Johnstone.

Trump, an avid golfer, has not announced whether he will attend this year’s Presidents Cup, but either way it would be a shock if any American player protests during the U.S. national anthem at the opening ceremony.

Johnstone’s advice to the American team was to steer clear.

“I just hope they don’t get any pie on their face and just leave it alone,” said Johnstone.

Editing by Frank Pingue

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