Make Football Great Again: Another NFL Player Stuns the League by Defending National Anthem


Training camp is underway for all 32 NFL teams, and the usual hot topics are being discussed.

Which rookies will become the next superstars? Which teams will make the playoffs? Who will win the Super Bowl?

And, of course, which players are going to kneel for the national anthem?

While the NFL and the NFL Players Association try to hash out an agreement for how to handle players who believe that kneeling during the anthem somehow fixes anything, at least two teams have agreed among themselves to stand for the anthem this season.

The Dallas Cowboys have already had two of their biggest stars say they won’t be kneeling this season, and now a member of the Denver Broncos is saying his team has agreed to stand for the national anthem.

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“As of now everybody is on the same page,” cornerback Chris Harris said Friday of his teammates. “Everybody, from talking to all of the guys, will be out on the field standing. We’re going to work as a team and try not to have anybody doing their own thing this year.”

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott unveiled Friday that his team had also come to an agreement to stand.

“Us as a team, we chose to stand together for the national anthem,” he said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “It was our decision. I think it just shows our culture. It shows that we have unity. We’re going to stand as one. That’s not knocking anyone else who may choose to kneel during the national anthem. But we’re the Dallas Football Cowboys, America’s Team. We stand for the national anthem.”

Elliott’s comments came the same day as quarterback Dak Prescott was asked if would consider kneeling for the anthem.

“I never protest,” Prescott said. “I never protest during the anthem, and I don’t think that’s the time or the venue to do so. The game of football has always brought me such peace, and I think it does the same for a lot of people — a lot of people playing the game, a lot of people watching the game, a lot of people who have any impact of the game — so when you bring such controversy to the stadium, to the field, to the game it takes away. It takes away from that, it takes away from the joy and the love that football brings a lot of people.”

Harris believes the NFL and the NFLPA are close to an agreement for how to handle anthem protests this season.

“I know they have something coming up soon,” Harris said. “I’ve been getting emails about it.”

Earlier this summer, the NFL announced it had come up with a new plan for “solving” the anthem problem that didn’t seem to solve anything. The league proposed that any player who chose to be on the sidelines during the anthem would have to stand. Those who did not want to stand would be allowed to remain in the locker room until the anthem was completed. No disciplinary action would be taken against those who remained out of sight in the locker room, but those who opted to kneel while on the sidelines would be subject to fines and potential suspensions.

The NFLPA was furious, saying it wasn’t consulted for its feedback. Some owners said they would allow players who wanted to kneel to do so on the sidelines without fear of being fined by their teams. Not to mention, there would be the awkward optics of players being introduced as part of the starting lineups running onto the field, only to turn around and head back to the locker room to protest the anthem, and then return to the field for the start of the game.

The NFL agreed to pull its solution off the table and work with the NFLPA on a modified policy.

But at the NFL owners’ meetings in Oxnard, California last week, there was no ambiguity when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked if he’d support players who chose to kneel or stay in the locker room during the anthem.

“Our policy is that you stand at the anthem, toe on the line,” Jones said.

Jones admitted that he’d prefer for the entire anthem controversy to disappear, but said until it does, he’s going to deal with the problem as he sees fit.

“We feel strongly about how we deal with it and we’ll do so accordingly,” Jones said. “But, yes, I, like everybody, would like for it to go away.”

There’s no question the anthem protests have hurt the NFL. Initially, those who were offended that players chose to kneel during the anthem began turning off the league’s games. Now, even those who support the protesters have started to boycott, claiming the league’s heavy handed threats against those who have kneeled is racist in nature. As a result, the league’s TV ratings have declined each of the last two seasons.

Do you expect to see a decrease in the number of anthem protesters this season?

And hence the problem with the anthem protests from the start. When 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first began protesting the anthem in 2016 — first by sitting on the bench during the anthem, then by kneeling — he wanted to draw attention to what he perceived as the social injustice of police killing unarmed black men.

Instead, it was perceived as unpatriotic, and a means to turn what was one of the few apolitical activities in the country into a platform for social issues.

Two years later, the NFL is still suffering from a PR crisis that it can’t seem to win. It’s criticized for not preventing players from protesting, and it’s criticized for trying to stop players from protesting.

That’s why having players come forward on their own to agree to stand for the anthem is the best news the NFL can hope for. And if more teams follow suit with the Cowboys and Broncos and agree to stand, the NFL and its fans can get back to worrying more about what happens after the anthem is played than during it.

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Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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