"It's a deeply emotional issue, couldn't disagree with everyone more," says McCain.
The discussion was sparked by the NFL's new policy ruling players could be fined if they took a knee on the field during the song, but would also be given the option of staying in the locker room during the pregame ceremony. The move was met with approval by President Donald Trump, who told Fox & Friends, "Well, I think that's good. I don't think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still, I think it's good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country."
Responding to Trump's comments, Joy Behar joked, "Some people say that dodging the draft five times is un-American, maybe he shouldn't be in the country."
Sara Haines then said she believes the decision "was all about money," before explaining why she feels it's a "sad" policy to make. "One of the beautiful things about, for me, standing for the national anthem, it became more powerful when you were standing next to someone who was kneeling," she explained. "The idea of standing next to someone who's kneeling, we don't have the same history in this country. This doesn't mean the same to all of us."
Sunny Hostin said the protest wasn't about the anthem itself or the flag, but how "this country still terrorizes African-American men at a disproportionate rate than it does to white men." She continued, "If I want to kneel because I don't think America is as great as she can be, I don't think America has lived up to the promise of the flag, that means I am being just as American as when you stand in homage to your parents' service."
"This is a very emotional issue," McCain said before adding that she "completely [disagrees] with everyone on this table. I would never be OK with someone not saluting the flag. By the way, 72 percent of Americans, according to Reuters said that they thought [Colin Kaepernick's] behavior was unpatriotic." That same report also noted that 64 percent of those polled felt he still had a right to protest.
When Hostin interjected that "97 percent of African Americans think it's very patriotic" -- a remark met with applause from the audience -- McCain shot back, "Can I please finish what I'm saying? I'm still talking, I'm still speaking!"
The show had to toss to a commercial, but they finished the discussion after the break. "I disagree, I know it's unpopular in this room," McCain said when they returned. "I get it, that's why we do this job. It's a deeply emotional issue, couldn't disagree with everyone more."
"There are a lot of things that make us Americans," Whoopi Goldberg said in response. "The fact that we can disagree and I can sit and you can stand and we can all continue on. The idea that now in America, you are not allowed to disagree, you're not allowed to do that. In a dictatorship, you gotta stand. That's never been how we did it." Goldberg added she felt the NFL made the decision they did because it was "forced by the guy in the White House," referring to Trump. "When I think about him and what he thinks is patriotic, I'm not buying it."
Behar said she was outraged over the decision because "all we have is the vote and we have protest," and one of those rights was being taken away.
"The average person, we're kind of powerless. There's not much more that we can do," she explained. "People are angry, feeling powerless because of the way they're conducting the country right now. I personally abhor the way this man is conducting business in this country and the racism is disgraceful and Donald Trump needs to be taken to task. How do you do it? If you're a football player, or any sports guy who has the position to do it, do it."
While McCain said "everyone has the right to protest," they still have to be ready for the consequences. "I do think though that one of hosts was going home and burning an American flag, we might not have a job because at the end of the day there is a corporation and there's an audience and there's money," she said, saying audience outrage over doing that could lead to someone being fired.
Whoopi ended the discussion by reiterating what she feels is behind the protest: "This is not about disrespecting the soldiers, this is not about disrespecting the flag, this is about me saying the flag does not protect me as it should."