Bills’ Hughes upset with Jim Kelly criticizing team protest

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The Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes is upset with Jim Kelly after accusing the Hall of Fame quarterback for attempting to divide the team by publicly criticizing LeSean McCoy for how he protested during the national anthem on Sunday.

“I was very disappointed in him,” Hughes said on Monday. “It was not cool, very unacceptable. And if he has things to stay about us as a team, come talk to us.”

Hughes was responding to comments Kelly made on his weekly radio show earlier in the day. In saying he disagreed with any player not standing during the anthem, Kelly singled out McCoy after the star running back sat on the turf and stretched while the Star Spangled Banner was performed before Buffalo’s home game against Denver.

“I like LeSean McCoy, don’t get me wrong, but that totally 100 percent I disagree with what he did,” Kelly told Buffalo’s WGRF-Radio . “You want to kneel? Fine. But when you do out and what he did yesterday, that sort of bummed me out and I lost a lot of respect for that man.”

Kelly went further in saying NFL players are disrespecting the nation if they continue their protests.

“We need to stand for our country and what it stands for black and white,” he said.

“If you don’t think our country is good enough then leave, go somewhere else.”

Kelly also posted a note on his Instagram account saying the only time he will ever kneel is to pray.

McCoy took his place at the far end of a line of Bills players and coaches, who stood about 10 yards on the field as the anthem began.

Kelly was at the opposite end of the line, and stood for the anthem with his right hand over his heart while holding up a Bills cap in his left hand.

Though Hughes remains upset, Kelly and McCoy have since cleared the air.

Kelly’s publicist, Tricia Cavalier, told The Associated Press that Kelly and McCoy have come to terms on the issue after exchanging a series of texts. She said Kelly was unavailable for comment because he was traveling.

McCoy was also not available and isn’t scheduled to speak to reporters until Wednesday when the Bills (2-1) return to practice to prepare for their game at Atlanta this weekend.

About 10 other Bills players knelt during the anthem, while the rest of the players and coaches stood with arms linked or put their hands on the backs of players who were kneeling.

The decision to have Bills players protest in their own way was reached Saturday during a voluntary team meeting which also included general manager Brandon Beane, coach Sean McDermott and owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

Hughes took issue with Kelly’s presence on the field in part because he didn’t attend the meeting. Hughes also said, Kelly should have approached the players with his concerns if he had issues with the protest.

“That doesn’t sit well with me because we came together as a team and we discussed how we were going to approach the national anthem,” Hughes said.

“We’re trying to bring the team together. We’re trying to bring a community together. We’re trying to bring a nation together. And by dividing us and dividing the team, that doesn’t work.”

Kelly is employed by the Bills and is normally present on the team’s sideline during home games.

Hughes didn’t directly answer a question as to whether Kelly would be welcomed back on the sideline.

“If he wants to offer anything of encouragement to our team, to our quarterbacks, to our offense, please provide all that,” Hughes said.

“We could use all the encouragement that we need to figure out how they won games back in those days and be as successful as they were.”

Kelly retired following the 1996 season after being a key member of Bills teams that reached and lost four consecutive Super Bowls from 1991-94.

Coach McDermott referred to a statement the Pegulas released on Saturday when asked about Kelly criticizing McCoy.

“I stand by that statement of equality, love and unity,” he said.

And McDermott could not foresee the Bills not allowing Kelly to be on the sideline.

“Listen, Jim Kelly, he’s one of the hallmarks of this organization,” McDermott said. “So I at this point don’t see that changing.”

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