Interview: Neal McCoy on ‘Take a Knee’ and the Death Threats, Grammar Police That Followed
Neal McCoy isn't known for being quick to anger, but watching Colin Kaepernick kneel during the National Anthem prior to a 2016 NFL game made his blood boil. Now with a new protest-the-protest song called "Take a Knee ... My Ass!" the 59-year-old '90s hitmaker has become the centerpiece of the conversation.
That wasn't McCoy's intention, he insists, but he's not mad about all of the attention. The "Wink" singer says it still makes him angry to see players kneeling. "It’s been kind of eating at me, because of my patriotism that runs through my blood and always has," the country singer tells Taste of Country.
"The thing I wanted to talk about in the song that I think is getting lost in at least what some people are saying — 'Neal McCoy mocks the NFL' and the headlines that they’re capturing, and I’m certainly not mocking the NFL — the thing that gets to me about it all is just … the timing of it," he continues. "I think you should put your hand over your heart and pay respects."
Songwriter Dan Roberts (Garth Brooks' "The Beaches of Cheyenne") wrote "Take a Knee ... My Ass!" or "I Won't Take a Knee," as it will soon be titled for radio airplay. A mutual friend connected singer and songwriter, and McCoy made the case that his followers on Facebook would love the song, because he is known as a patriot and he does recite the National Anthem daily on Facebook Live (and has for almost 700 days straight).
He first performed "Take a Knee ... My Ass!" live in Branson, Mo. — McCoy says he knew the older, more conservative crowd would be a great sounding board for what he wanted to say. A video shows him fumbling through the song with lyrics in hand and a fan's reading glasses on, but the response was loud and definite.
"They stood up when I said 'my ass' and I would have thought that would have been the time when that audience would have cowered down," McCoy recalls. "But because of what the song was talking about and that I showed a little distain when I said ‘my ass,’ they thought 'yes!' I felt like they were saying. 'Somebody has said it!'"
Since that performance the studio recording has gone viral, with seemingly every national news outlet asking McCoy for time to chat. The response has been less kind on Twitter, with users tweeting scathing reviews of the lyrics, message and grammar. We asked about all of it in a chat with McCoy on Monday (Nov. 20).
For the record, he is an avid Dallas Cowboys fan.
You said you're upset about the timing of the protests. The counter-argument is that the spotlight of the National Anthem is the perfect place for Colin Kaepernick's protest because he and his cause might not get attention otherwise.
Right, and I understand that. He should know too, just like I know when I put this song out, that I’m going to have the other side, the people who disagree with me — they’re going to be very vocal and he should know that too. And he probably did. He probably just didn’t expect them to be as upset about it. I think if he’d actually thought about it a bit he’d see, ‘Yeah, I can actually understand a bit why it’s going to upset a lot of people.’
Some people have suggested that players should be penalized in some way for kneeling. Do you feel there should be a penalty or rule that requires players to stand?
I think the NFL commissioner should have stepped in in some way and talked to Colin and said ‘Hey, look man — this is not right. Maybe I can find another way to help you get your point across. Let’s talk about this, but let’s don’t do it again.’ I don’t know that (NFL commissioner Roger Goodell) did his part in trying to nip it in the bud.
Has this debate affected how you watch football or how much you enjoy watching the Dallas Cowboys?
It has affected it a little bit. I’m still a Cowboys fan, I’m an NFL fan. I like football. I appreciate not only how athletic these guys are, but I understand too what it takes to get to that level in anything. So I respect the NFL players. I see people say, ‘They’re million dollar crybabies’ … I think whatever they earn, they have earned that. If someone is willing to pay you for something and they pay you, then congratulations, you earned it.
I have cut back a little, but I still watch. And I do understand that people have gotten real upset and they’ve boycotted the NFL. I’m trying to understand their reasons for that. I guess it’s what they feel the NFL has allowed the players to do by protesting during the National Anthem. I don’t agree with them doing it during the National Anthem.
You’ve seen people march, you’ve seen people that hold rallies — I’m all for that. I’d appreciate if it stayed peaceful. I think when Kaepernick did it, it kind of got to me a little, and then when I saw more players doing it and I didn’t hear any of them stepping up and saying why they were doing it. It almost seemed like some of them were just jumping on the bandwagon a little bit ...
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Twitter users have attacked the grammar in the song title, "Take a Knee ... My Ass!" Did you tweak the title?
If you look at the title of what I put out at iTunes, it is with the ellipses and the exclamation points. Whoever the writer was or whoever chose to abbreviate it however they wanted to abbreviate it. And I’m suffering from that, but here’s the deal: I’m a singer, and I graduated in Jacksonville, Texas, and they do a pretty good job with the education system down there. I’m sure I’m not the brightest grammatic guy in the world. As a matter of fact, I’m the one who put the ellipses and the exclamation points and I know grammatically that’s not correct, but I did that to get attention and ... emphasis.
Have you enjoyed the Twitter conversation this song has cultivated?
I’ve laughed at a lot of them. I tell you what’s getting to me a little bit is that it’s getting to my family. It’s getting to my wife and my daughter and my son, because some of them are very, very cruel. Death threats to just vulgar stuff. That’s a little out of hand, but I’ve been in the business a long time and I let it roll off my back a lot more than they do. Because they know and I know that my reputation in this business and as an entertainer has always been one of clean, respectful, good-natured kind of stuff. And I’ve worked hard to establish that reputation, and my family notices all the work and extra stuff I do to establish that. So this is their first taste and really my first taste of getting haters. Ha!
To what extent do you welcome being the centerpiece for this conversation?
You know, I haven’t liked (the kneeling) ever since they started doing it. But you know I’ve gotten through it, I get it, I understand they’re doing it. It still upsets me when I hear about them doing it every week. I was just going to be the guy and continue doing my thing, my career, doing what I do and hopefully making something happen and staying relevant out there enough where I can do concerts and provide for my family. It’s pretty simple stuff. And then the song comes along ...
It puts me on the hot spot … but I didn’t have any idea that I was going to be the mouthpiece for this kind of rally. I sure didn’t set out to do that. I’m fortunate and I’m unfortunate … I thought, ‘Well hopefully this thing will respond well and we’ll add more followers, maybe some people buy a Neal McCoy record and we’ll get more people to say the Pledge of Allegiance with us every day.’ That was my goal. And for it to take off to now it’s become what it is … Now that it has gone viral, yes I am okay with being the guy as long as they will put out what I’m saying in the song. I think people are quick to say, ‘Well Neal’s mocking the NFL’ or ‘Neal is against protesting’ and I’m not that at all. To me it was just the timing of the National Anthem that got it in my crawl. Still does.
Twitter Is Having Fun With Neal McCoy's Song, to Say the Least