As President Donald Trump continues to criticize athletes who have chosen to take a knee during the national anthem, high-profile Olympians hopefuls are weighing in on the hot-button issue.
In an interview with PEOPLE Now this week, Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner, Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark and Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy all gave their perspective on the issue ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“You know, as an athlete you’re kind of given this awesome platform. And I think that if you truly, passionately believe something and you can speak on it thoughtfully, then I have nothing but respect for the people that have the nerve to do that,” Wagner, 26, said. “We need people who really have something that they believe in.”
“I also at the end of the day know that I’m a figure skater — and I’m an athlete through and through, and that’s what I’m here to do,” she added. “People who speak up for things that matter for them, I absolutely respect them. For me, I’ll speak up about something if I know what I’m talking about and am truly passionate about it. But I also don’t want that to be my story. I want people to focus on my skating. I work too hard to have all of this extra noise take anything away from that.”
Clark, whose first Olympics came five months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, explained the power sports have to bring people together.
“I’ve seen a lot of different stuff go on over the course of my Olympic career,” the 34-year-old athlete said. “The Olympics are just special. They cause people to put their difference aside and they bring the world together like something I’ve never seen. And so looking forward to February, I hope they continue to be that.”
For Kenworthy, the fact that athletes like quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who sparked a movement when he took a knee when the national anthem was played before NFL games last year — have the right to protest is what makes America so great.
“I think it’s amazing that we live in the U.S. and you have the opportunity to take a stand for what you believe in,” the 25-year-old said. “I support any athletes that want to use their voice and use their platform to stand up for a cause they believe in. I think it’s admirable.”