Prior to the Kansas City Chiefs’ Monday Night Football game against the Washington Redskins in early October of 2017, Ukeme Eligwe sat on the bench during the national anthem. His then-teammate, Marcus Peters, also remained seated. Justin Houston kneeled near the bench in prayer.
After the game, Eligwe wouldn’t discuss his reasons for sitting, instead prompting fans who were offended to write him a letter.
“I got a lot of letters, I did.” Eligwe told reporters in St. Joseph on Sunday. “Right now I believe I didn’t write anybody back. I didn’t want any conflict. I got advised on some stuff, and I didn’t write anybody back yet. I still have them ... I’ll hold onto them for a while.”
In late May, the NFL unveiled a new anthem policy, which required players to stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room, or become subject to fines from the league.
That policy has since been frozen after a grievance was filed by the NFL Players Association, and Chiefs owner, chairman and CEO Clark Hunt is waiting to outline the Chiefs’ stance until both sides come to a final agreement.
Eligwe was willing to discuss it.
“We’ve got new league rules that just happened this offseason,” Eligwe said. “Each team has their own rules. I spoke to Clark Hunt. We have rules and I’ll be abiding by whatever those rules are.”
Eligwe said it was a good conversation with the Chiefs owner, who revealed Saturday he’d be willing to help players with both human resources and financially.
“When it comes to helping the community, [the Hunts] are going to match whatever we throw in, so when we get back into the community and we decide what we want to do, it’s going to be great.”
Eligwe wants to find a way to keep children on the right path.
“Me? My money out of my pocket? I’d put money toward after-school programs for kids to get kids out of the streets into places where after school they can learn or may it be a sport or activity—music, whatever the case is.”
He came up with the idea from his own childhood, growing up in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
“When I was young, of course I played sports, but I used to go to this Victory Baptist Church where [a mentor] would really look out for young guys like myself and others who may not of had the best of opportunities outside of school.
“Anything keeping kids out the streets or taking in crime, whatever the case may be, I believe is best for them.”