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In response to the epidemic of national anthem protests sweeping the National Football League, NFL legend John Elway has made two things clear.
First, he will always stand for the national anthem even if others exercise their right to protest. Second, it is long past time to get politics out of football games.
Elway, who starred with the Denver Broncos as a player and is now the team’s general manager, made it clear this week that while not condemning players who kneel, he would never join them.
“I’m one that believes in standing for the national anthem, and I’ve always believed that. I believe that this is the greatest country in the world. We are very fortunate to live here, but it’s obviously not perfect,” he said.
“There are a lot of things that need to be corrected, and we will continue to work on those things. I’m one that really believes in standing for the flag,” Elway said.
Elway indicated that he believed comments from President Donald Trump, who strongly criticized protesting NFL players, were a major factor in the protests that took place last weekend.
“I understand the players and the way they felt from the comments that were made earlier in the week. They felt they had to go down and kneel and that’s up to them,” he said.
But enough is enough, Elway also said.
“Hopefully, as we go forward we can start concentrating on football a little bit more. Take the politics out of football. But I think that last week was a good show of unity by the NFL and hopefully this week we can move forward,” he said.
Elway’s remarks mirrored those of Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, who said his players have the right to protest, even if he believes in standing for the anthem. Jones also seemed to finger Trump for the latest round of protests.
“That’s their right as U.S. citizens. The comments didn’t sit well with our football team or the entire NFL,” Joseph said. “Hopefully, we can move past this and play football because politics and football don’t mix, in my opinion. I’m a football coach and they’re football players, and our job is to win football games. Hopefully, we can get back to that this week.”
Elway had been asked about protests in August, and responded with a clear focus on job one — winning football games.
“My stance is that everybody has their right to do what they wish to do and their beliefs are their beliefs. That’s why we live in this country. They have the right to display whatever they wish to display,” he said then.
“I think one thing — where we stand and where I stand with the Broncos — is, ‘That’s OK and we will respect that and whatever you want to do is fine with us. But the bottom line is that can’t get in the way with our main goal. And that is to compete for world championships,’” he said.
“I just don’t want that pulling away from our team. It can pull (you) away, because it does get a lot of attention. The only thing that I would say to our players is to make sure it’s not hurting your teammate. If the questions and everything — if the tenor changes of what goes on in these interviews and you’re not talking about our next opponent, you’re talking about what’s going on in the world — that’s not the best thing for our football team,” Elway said then.