U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson, a USMC officer and vet of Afghanistan and Iraq, joined me this AM to discuss the weekend’s events:
HH: Pleased to welcome back to the show Kevin Nicholson. He is running for the United States Senate in Wisconsin, www.nicholsonforsenate.com, That’s NicholsonForSenate.com. Kevin, welcome back to the program, great to have you.
KN: Good morning, Hugh, and thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
HH: I’ve got to talk to you about the NFL. Before I do, would you remind people of your military service, please?
KN: Sure. Happy to. So I served in the Marine Corps from 2004-09. I fought in Iraq in ’07. I fought in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009. So when I got out of the Marine Corps, I was a captain, and it was the greatest honor and privilege of my life, professionally, to serve in the Marine Corps.
HH: So Anthony Villanueva comes out of the tunnel yesterday, a Ranger in Afghanistan who fought, and I’m sure saw his brothers and sisters in arms injured, sometimes killed, and salutes the flag. The rest of the Steelers stay inside. That’s kind of a symbol of the division in the country right now. What did you make of yesterday?
KN: Boy, I’ll tell you, I try and put myself in the shoes of people at times and try and figure out what they’re thinking. And in this particular case, if I had been one of the Steelers sitting in the locker room and knew that my colleague, probably my friend was sitting on that tunnel by himself saluting the flag, and knew that he served his country in combat, I think that I’d feel like quite a coward sitting in that locker room by myself hiding away. And this is one of these moments where I think common sense and decency should have kicked in, and they should have come out and stood with him. So no, go ahead. Sorry, Hugh.
HH: Well, I was going to ask you generally, I do not approve of the President calling anybody an SOB, especially NFL players. I know there are many of them who are great, like Joe Thomas, DeShone Kizer, I mean, Duke Johnson.
HH: They’re all great people. I do not approve of LeBron calling the President a bum. I don’t approve of any of this.
HH: But what is your message as a combat veteran running for the Senate and a Marine to the NFL players who have to make a decision every week for the next 14 or 13 weeks what they are going to do?
KN: Right. Be the bigger person here. The simple reality is this. You know, we did fight for people’s freedoms and the ability to get out there and just speak your mind. You don’t give that up simply because you choose to play in the NFL. I think everybody understands that. But when it comes to taking a few moments before you play a kids game and get paid millions of dollars to do it, to take a moment to reflect and appreciate the country that gave you all this opportunity. There is nothing, nothing that precludes you from standing up, doing the honorable thing, and putting your hand over your heart and taking a moment to honor America. And I would say this. There’s many athletes that have come before the athletes that are playing today that had grievous problems with the United States of America. I would say Jim Brown is one of those people who, you know, through is personal time and activism helped to change the society that he lived in, but never once failed to stand and to salute America when he had the opportunity to do so as part of our Anthem. So I think that’s a good example to follow. No one is asking anybody to say everything’s okay or perfect. That’s not the case here. It’s just to take a moment, honor the country, and then from there, be free to share your opinion.
HH: I received a scathing email this morning, not directed at me, but at the NFL from a two-star retired Marine Corps general. Part of what he wrote, Kevin Nicholson, was “One of the lessons of 37 years on active duty in the Marine Corps is, military courtesy and obedience notwithstanding, respect is earned. Does Roger Goodell really think the NFL has earned the respect of our country? He and the NFL are the absolute last place I would turn to, to understand anything positive about the practice of respect. And in this ignorance, he and the business cannot grasp the decline and falling in interest. I mean nothing to them, but in previous years, the TV was always on and tuned in on Monday, Thursday and all day Sunday. I have watched only three games this year, following my team. I discovered I am no longer an NFL fan, but a Packers fan. As I look to Mr. Goodell, his leadership of the NFL and the insulting behavior of players, I doubt that is maintained through the year.” You’re no doubt a Packers fan as well, are you not, Kevin Nicholson?
KN: I’m a huge Packers fan. We bleed green and gold in our family. And I’ll tell you, I have, about the only reason I have not watched Packers games over the last, I don’t know, 15 years of my life, is because I was on a war deployment. And, but yesterday, we didn’t watch. We recorded the game. We went to a Brewers game, in fact, and the beautiful thing in the Brewers game was we saw, you know, players from both the Brewers and the Cubs stand up, salute the flag, and then we watched the whole stadium singing God Bless America during the game. It was wonderful. The Brewers lost, which was not so wonderful, but it was great to see the community stand up. And then as we were driving home, and we were going to watch the game, as we typically do as a family after it’s been recorded, we heard that at least three of the Packers had sat down during the Anthem. And you know, I can’t tell you how disappointing that is. This is Vince Lombardi’s team. And I’ll tell you, Vince was one of the most progressive civil rights-oriented coaches in the NFL at the time. The Packers have a long legacy of doing the right thing by the players and by the people. And we would have expected if the players would have all stood up and linked arms. That would have been fine. But they didn’t do that. And to us, our family, we just decided we’d take some extra time with the kids, working on school projects, get outside and enjoy the nice weather. But I agree with the general that wrote you. Here’s the bottom line. The NFL fines players for not wearing the correct shoe. It does that pretty consistently. I have a strong feeling that if he wanted to, Roger Goodell could make darn sure that all the players had it impressed on them the importance of honoring the United States of America and the opportunities we all have in this country. He has chosen not to. It’s a very, very strange moment for the NFL to decide that now, it’s so important that everybody have the “freedom” to do whatever they want at any given moment, and to not show the responsibility and obligations that we all have. So I’m not impressed.
HH: You have an interesting story, Kevin, because you moved from being a member and an activist in the Democratic Party into the military and into the Republican Party, and now you’re seeking to serve the people of Wisconsin in the Senate. So you’ve kind of moved along. Does this meltdown, and it is a collision between the President, who used bad judgment in calling them SOB’s, because they’re not, all right? They’re just not. And bad judgment by Colin Kaepernick, just bad judgment all along to make the flag and the National Anthem the center of their political dispute, doesn’t that kind of reflect kind of your journey?
KN: Yeah, in a lot of respects. I mean, well, you mean the use of common sense?
HH: It’s dead.
HH: What happened to people’s common sense?
KN: Common sense. Yeah, no, that’s it, right? I mean, well, what I look at is, I was a young people. I thought I was a Democrat, because I grew up in a family of Democrats. I didn’t know any better, right? And I got on, and I lived life, and I figured things out, and came to understand that the best thing that could happen to people is that they have the freedom and the ability to go out and take advantage of opportunities and capitalize on their God-given talents and to work hard to be successful. So I figured that out through experience. You know, I think a lot of these NFL players, there’s no doubt, and I think Roger Goodell put this in his statement, they worked hard through their life, their young lives at this point, and that’s great. We should celebrate that. It’s a wonderful thing. But now, I think that coaches, players, general managers, all of which, many of which, anyway, have been extremely disappointing in putting forward an example, have failed to impress upon these athletes like look, your hard work and all the wonderful things you’ve done in your career and your life, those have happened on a canvas. That canvas is the United States of America that’s given you great opportunity. Don’t ever stop trying to improve it. That’s wonderful. Like take this initiative you have on the athletic field, apply that to life in general, go back to your communities, share that with other people who haven’t yet learned that. that’s a great thing that you have. But don’t lose it, and don’t ever turn your back on this country that gave you the opportunity in the first place. That’s leadership. And when I think that Marine general that wrote you this morning would have said the exact same thing. That is leadership. That’s what it takes to get out there and simply not put out a trite statement about freedoms and how it’s so great that we can all do whatever we want at any given moment. That’s not true, first off. There’s no such thing as, you know, complete and absolute freedom. There’s always responsibility that comes with it. I would expect these grown men and adults that work in the NFL to have that figured out, and to impress upon those who haven’t figured it out, yet, the way that it really works.
HH: So let me conclude by asking you about a policy issue, Kevin Nicholson.
HH: You’re running, we’ve got Graham-Cassidy on the floor of the Senate this week. It is the last chance to get rid of Obamacare ever, in my view. And it’s by federalism, which I approve of. I think Rand Paul has the chance to be the father of a new federalism, or he has a chance to keep Obamacare in place forever. What do you hope happens in the Senate this week on Graham-Cassidy?
KN: I think there’s two things here. One is, and I’ve said this all the way along, that they continue to work until they get it right, which means that there’s no moment that everybody simply throws up their hands and says well, this isn’t perfect enough for me, I quit. That’s not allowed. You know, the simple reality here is the status quo of Obamacare is not sustainable. It is falling apart. It will fall apart. So that should be in the back of every single U.S. Senator’s mind. We know what the Democrats are doing here. They’re willing to stonewall the whole thing, so the Republicans have to take up the mantle of leadership. They have to get it done. Now the end metric here, the decision that has to be made is, is this a better situation than the status quo, which is falling apart? If it is, then they should continue to move forward. If not, pause, stop, continue to work. Do not quit. And this is the same thing that you and all of your listeners do every single day when you show up to work. If it’s not right, you keep pushing until you get it right, and you do not stop, period. Because your point, I don’t know if this is the last chance, but it is a, it is one of the better opportunities to get this right. And those that are paid to be there in the U.S. Senate had better be showing up every single second until they get it right. That is the obligation the rest of us have placed upon them.
HH: Kevin Nicholson, always good, keep coming back. Follow Kevin on Twitter, @KevinMNicholson, America, @KevinMNicholson, extraordinary candidate the GOP has up there in Wisconsin taking on the Democrat incumbent up there.
End of interview.