SALT LAKE CITY — Republican congressional candidate and former NFL player Burgess Owens disagrees with professional athletes’ approach to protesting racial injustice.
“I don’t agree with what they’re doing today. There’s going to be bad people no matter where you go,” he said Thursday.
Owens in a meeting with the Deseret News editorial board also defended himself against allegations that he plagiarized some passages in his newest book. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, cited the allegations in a fundraising email this week, calling it not only “deeply disappointing” but “disqualifying.”
McAdams and Owens are locked in tight race in Utah’s 4th Congressional District. A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll this month has them tied at 35%, though nearly a quarter of voters say the don’t know who they would pick.
Owens said pro athletes shouldn’t protest in the workplace and still expect to have a job. He said there’s “plenty of time, plenty of money” to do it in the offseason.
“If young men want to protest, let them protest on their own time,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks decided to not take the floor for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic, prompting the NBA to postpone all three games scheduled for the day.
The team’s decision came in the wake of police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in the back seven times as he tried get into the driver’s side door of his vehicle with three of his children inside Sunday. Blake survived but his attorneys said the bullets severed his spinal cord and shattered some of his vertebrae and that he might never walk again.
League sources say NBA players have decided to resume the season, although Thursday’s three playoff games — a schedule that included Game 6 of the Utah Jazz-Denver Nuggets series — was postponed.
Owens, 69, played safety in the NFL for 10 years with the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders, winning a Super Bowl with the Raiders in 1980. He has been a sharp critic of the league and of players who take a knee during the national anthem.
There were no Black quarterbacks, centers or free safeties in the game back then because those were considered “thinking” positions, he said.
“So now we have Black young men making $50 million a year, and instead of coming together the way we would have done back in my day ... we have them not willing to stand for our flag because they don’t think America’s been fair to them,” he said.
Owens, who spoke at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, said that even though he grew up under segregation in the South, he was taught that anything was possible in America. He said he was taught to work hard, have Christian principles, get an education and be patriotic.
Owens also addressed a Media Matters for America report that he plagiarized material from sources ranging from Wikipedia to a relatively obscure blog for sections on subjects including the NFL and the late civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in his latest book, “Why I Stand: From Freedom to the Killing Fields of Socialism.”
“Everything they talk about there was a source, at the very bottom of the page. I sourced everything,” he said, rejecting the characterization of plagiarism. He said Media Matters “might not like the source where I’m crediting it.” Media Matters is a left-leaning nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.
Owens, an author of two books and frequent Fox News guest, said he earned a degree in biology at the University of Miami, not in journalism.
“This is the result of a nonprofessional writer doing this best to share concerns about an ideology that has destroyed his proud community and attempting to destroy our nation,” he told the Deseret News. “I had no ghost writer or editor, so I have no doubt made mistakes.”
People can decide whether they believe Owens or their own eyes when they see entire sections from Wikipedia passed off as his own, said Andrew Roberts, McAdams’ campaign manager.
“When a leading Republican and former aide to George Bush suggested Burgess should be disinvited from the convention we thought Utahns and our supporters deserved to know he’d stolen another person’s words to sell books for his own personal gain,” he said, referring to a tweet by Bill Kristol, a conservative political commentator.