Illini Coach Lovie Smith says he encourages players to be politically active

CHAMPAIGN, Illinois -- Asked during his weekly press conference about the ongoing national anthem controversy in the NFL, current University of Illinois and ex-Chicago Bears football coach Lovie Smith said he encourages his players to take a stand on political issues.

"We talk about current events, always," Smith said. "If you have an opinion, express it."

Smith noted he also does not tell his players what to say when interviewed by the media or in press conferences.

The national anthem issue has worked its way down to the college game, including in the Big 10. Last weekend, players at Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska kneeled or raised there fists during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner prior to their respective games.

Typically, Illini players aren't yet on the field during the national anthem at home games.