Football legend Herschel Walker has a lot to say about Olympians protesting the American flag and kneeling before games, as spectators have observed in recent days during the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
"People think I'm very harsh when I say this," Walker told Fox News in an exclusive Friday interview. "This is the United States of America, and if people don't like the rules here — and there's no doubt we can make some things better — but if people don't like the rules here, why are you here?"
He questioned whether the Olympics is "the right place" for Americans to protest their country considering the presence of athletes from other countries "who would love to represent the United States of America" if given the chance.
Walker participated in the 1992 Olympics when he raced on Team USA's two-man bobsled team — an accomplishment he was not expecting at the time — and called the experience "one of the proudest moments" of his life, "coming from South Georgia and representing the United States."
"When I started seeing the United States flag and started seeing the people, the uniform, all my teammates from all different sports coming into that stadium — it almost brought a tear to my eye when I started thinking of where I grew up as a boy in my little hometown, and now having the chance to represent the United States of America," Walker said. "I couldn't have been more proud of anything."
The former NFL player, known for one of the biggest pro-football trades of all time, mentioned that during his experience in the Olympics, he noticed athletes from other countries who would "come up and start talking about the United States of America," who "want to beat you because they think we have it made."
Walker was also one of few Black athletes participating in winter sports at the time, never mind bobsledding.
"All of my brothers and sisters were White, but I was [more proud] than anything. I would've died for that group over in France if I had to," Walker said of the USA bobsled team. "[They were] my family. … I couldn't have asked for anything better. I grew up in South Georgia — never, never could have dreamed of anything like that.
The star athlete's comments came after the Tokyo Olympics held its official opening ceremony Friday while competitions were ongoing. Some athletes have taken advantage of the spotlight, using global attention to make statements during their events.
Olympian Gwen Berry, for example, turned away from the American flag during the national anthem at U.S. Olympic trials last month.
Berry, Tommie Smith and John Carlos were among the more than 150 signatories on a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) demanding the organization to forgo punishment for competitors who protest during the Tokyo Games.
The five-page note published Thursday asks the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) not to sanction athletes for raising a fist or kneeling on the medal stand or during competitions, which would break the organization’s Rule 50.
Additionally, the U.S., British, Swedish and Chilean women's soccer teams knelt before their matches in protest of racism, discrimination and inequality. All squads pushed the limits of the IOC's rules about athletes performing political gestures at the Games.
Earlier in July, the IOC extended more guidelines on athletes’ freedom of expression at the Tokyo Games but warned against political gestures during official ceremonies, competitions and in the Olympic Village.
Walker believes leaders within the sports industry need to speak up and encourage U.S. athletes to send the right message.
"It's very sad to me because any other country… I can promise you… they would not be representing that country," he said. "I totally disagree with it, but they have the right to do it, even though I think it's wrong. We have to have leaders that… are going to stand up and say the right thing. You can feel a certain way and I think that's great, but this is the United States Olympics. … I'm not sure that's the time or place."
Fox News' Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.