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Showdown Over NFL Anthem Protests Moves to Monday Night

Glendale (September 26, 2017): The Dallas Cowboys team, including owner Jerry Jones, knelt on the field before the national anthem was played during the Monday Night Football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Arizona.

During the national anthem, the teams, in separate locations on the field, both stood with arms linked or holding hands. No member of either team was shown in the televised broadcast kneeling or sitting during the anthem. Neither team has ever had a player kneel during the anthem.

The two face off on “Monday Night Football,” and though there’s always been a little bad blood between the former division rivals, they’re polar opposites when it comes to players standing during the national anthem.

That could be on display after a weekend in which President Donald Trump slammed the NFL, and players and coaches responded by kneeling, locking elbows or remaining in the locker room during the pregame performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

On one sideline, you’ll have Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians who said it’s up to players to decide whether to stand or kneel during the anthem. “That is an individual right of an American,” he said.

On the other sideline in Glendale, Arizona, will be Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who was reticent at best when questioned by reporters.

“We have an approach that we believe in, and no real comment beyond that,” he said, to sportswriters’ dissatisfaction.

They kept grilling him. Will the players do anything? Has there been a discussion? “No,” Garrett said, drawing an awkward silence as reporters waited for him to elaborate. He didn’t.

Another journalist asked: Did Garrett not have an opinion on the protests, or was he simply reluctant to share it?

“I just don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interests for me to comment on that,” he said.

With that, the press conference moved on to football matters. It’s worth noting though that the man who signs Garrett’s paychecks has been vocal about the anthem protests.

Last year, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick saw only a modicum of support for the anthem protests he’s pioneered, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told a Fort Worth radio station that such demonstrations were “really disappointing.”

No players from either team have taken part in an anthem protest to date, but given teams’ reactions to Trump’s criticism over the weekend, it’s possible players might opt to speak out on one of the NFL’s biggest stages, “Monday Night Football.”

A team executive told the journalists that Jones, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and Cardinals President Michael Bidwill are taking part in discussions about a possible joint display of unity during the anthem.

Cowboys players, in their public statements, have largely trod the middle ground on the issue, while at least two Cardinals declined to rule out the possibility of protesting Monday night.

Arians has said he concurs with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who called Trump’s remarks divisive and said they demonstrate “an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL” and its players.

The latest chapter in the controversy came Friday night when Trump told those attending a political rally in Alabama that NFL owners should fire any “son of a bitch” who stages a protest during the national anthem.


The President’s focus remained on sports Saturday morning, as he tweeted he was rescinding a White House invitation for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors because two-time league MVP Steph Curry was “hesitating” in accepting the presidential offer. (Curry actually had flat-out declined the invitation.)

Hours later, the President went back in on athletes following in the knee prints of Kaepernick, who has said he refuses to stand during the anthem because he cannot “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Read Trump’s two-part tweet: “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not,  you’re fired. Find something else to do!”

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