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Telling Daughter, Mother Was Hardest Part of Ron Rivera's Cancer Diagnosis

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The Washington Football Team’s head coach said he was angry when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Ron Rivera revealed he has lymph node cancer last week.

“Things have been very good for me in my personal life,” he said. “You know, family’s been very good, very strong, and telling my family was difficult, but the thing I had going for me was I’ve had several examples when people who’ve been through this reach out and say this is what I went through, I’ve had what you had, and there’s hope.”

Telling his daughter was the hardest part, Rivera said.

“Courtney was born at a perfect time for me because I was transitioning from being a football player to just being a dad, and so she and I have a special relationship, so having to tell her and see her reaction was a tough one on me, and then the next one was my mother,” he said. “I lost me brother five years ago, my brother Mickey, to pancreatic cancer, so having to tell her I have it, cancer, a different type, thank goodness, and a less aggressive one, it was still very difficult to tell her. It was very difficult to get her to understand, to get to that point where she understands what I’ll go through is fairly curable, very curable, in fact, but again, I still have to go through it. Just trying to get Mom to not worry, although she did say until I tell her I’m cancer free she’s gonna worry.”

Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera opens up to News4's Leon Harris about how difficult it was to tell his family about his cancer diagnosis.

Rivera Plans to Kneel During Coin Tosses

Rivera told News4 he respects players’ right to kneel during the national anthem, but he won’t join them.

“There was a time when I used to think you’ve got to keep sports out of politics, you got to keep it away from, and I was wrong, because when I got to know Eric Reid when he came to Carolina, before we signed Eric, he was one of the two 49ers who took the knee, it made me realize I should go back and read the Constitution, I should go back and read the Bill of Rights and the amendments, and he helped me understand what Colin Kaepernick’s protest was about,” he said. “Now I could never kneel because of my family’s background and I just believe that I shouldn’t, but it helped me understand and appreciate the message they are trying to get out.”

Rivera said he will put the initials “J.L.” on his hat in honor of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis for his voter rights advocacy, and he plans to kneel during the coin toss.

“I don’t want the message to be contorted when it comes to, ‘Oh, you kneeled during the anthem, OK,’” he said. “So I’m going to make sure that my message that I have will be during the coin toss, OK, and for anybody that disagrees with me, well, I’m sorry, but it’s my right.”

Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera talks to News4's Leon Harris about the challenges faced since joining the team.

No Regrets About Taking Job

Rivera said he has no regrets about taking the head coaching position with the Washington Football Team, which had a tumultuous offseason before his cancer diagnosis with the team dropping its controversial name and logo, harassment allegations from a previous regime, and a pandemic.

“This is an opportunity to coach one of the premier football organizations in the league,” he said. “You know this is one of the original ones, started back in 1932, and there’s a lot of history, tremendous amount of history, and a great fanbase.  franchise – fanbase, and it’s also a great location in the United States. So I’m really excited about being here, I truly am.

“It has been difficult, it’s been different, it’s been trying at times, but I wouldn’t change my opportunity for anything. I just like where I am with this organization. Got a good group of players that we can develop and hopefully have around for a long time and build the type of team that the community can come out and support. I like my coaching staff, a lot of guys that I’ve worked with in the past, guys that are dedicated to helping sustain a winning culture. You know we’ve done a lot of good things here lately, so I’m pretty excited about it.”

Rivera will continue to coach as he undergoes treatment. On the days he's not up to it, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will fill in.

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