Football

Here’s how the Atlanta Falcons plan to address the national anthem controversy

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank stands with his players during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Detroit
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank stands with his players during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Detroit AP Photo

The Atlanta Falcons have spent little time on the NFL’s new national anthem rules during the team’s OTAs. While the topic has not been a pressing one to the Falcons this offseason, all the team's members will stick together with whatever decision they come to.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter reported that quarterback Matt Ryan said the team hasn’t had conversations about the national anthem yet, with the focus being solely on OTAs. However, Ryan explained the most important thing for the franchise to do is to share a single voice in whatever they do.

“One thing [head coach Dan Quinn] does such a good job with, and really the leadership of our team does such a good job with, is being open and communicating when you have situations come up like this,” Ryan said. “When you have people with different opinions, airing those and getting those out and connecting as a team and doing things unified as a team is most important to us. I’m sure we’ll get to that at some point.”

Per the NFL’s latest rules, players are required to either stand on the field for the anthem or stay in the locker room during its playing. Those who opt to kneel during the anthem are subject to a fine from the league, with a potential in-game penalty having been discussed.

Only two Falcons players knelt during the anthem in the 2017 season. Following President Donald Trump’s controversial comments in September about players kneeling, defensive linemen Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett took a knee before the Falcons’ game against the Detroit Lions.

Like Ryan, running back Tevin Coleman stressed how important it is for the team sticking together on this topic.

“We are a team and we want to do everything as a team,” Coleman said. “We have to go out there and fight for each other. That just brings a lot of relationship together with the players.”

Following former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling and call for change, the Falcons have worked to address social and racial issues. Along with creating an inner-team committee to address issues, the Falcons have been involved in offseason projects which Quinn told Ledbetter involved “law enforcement and teenagers.” The team as well as owner Arthur Blank also met with Andrew MacIntosh, the national director of leadership and education programs for the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality [RISE].

“Really, we just try to emulate what we are here as team,” offensive lineman Jake Matthews said. “In that locker room, it doesn’t matter what you look like. We’re all brothers with a common goal and purpose.

“There is no ill-intentions or any hate in there at all. We just try to [simulate] that and put that out in the community. That’s really it. If everybody had that mindset, it would be a better world.”

Jordan D. Hill: @JordanDavisHill | jhill@ledger-enquirer.com
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