Bills doing best to balance anthem issue with football prep

September 27, 2017

The last five days or so have been quite different in the National Football League.  For players, coaches, owners, and even media covering the league.  From the moment President Donald Trump said owners should fire players for not standing for the national anthem on Friday night, to several owners’ responses Saturday, to many more players kneeling during the anthem, that’s what’s dominated not only the sports news cycle, but the non-sports news, as well.

Bills players have constantly been asked questions about the situation.  But there’s also another big football game for them to play this Sunday - against the reigning NFC champion Atlanta Falcons, who are unbeaten through three games this season.

Head coach Sean McDermott said he’s proud of the way his team handled all that surrounded the situation last week and were still able to concentrate on beating the Denver Broncos.  And he already likes what he sees from them and their focus this week, as well.

“I’ve seen them continue to do that, with respect to the game and the last couple of days,” he told reporters Wednesday morning.  “I’m very appreciative of that. I think that it really speaks to a team. Being able to communicate, certainly like I’ve talked about, is important. Being able to communicate on the field is important, and that’s really where our focus needs to be this week as we move forward and focus on our team and the Atlanta Falcons. I really appreciate that about our guys.  They care about one another, they respect one another, and we’re able to communicate about things that are important.”

That communication has been good so far, according to McDermott, but it also needs to continue since the issue of protests and how to treat the national anthem will continue this week and for the foreseeable future.  But, so far this week, he says his players and coaches have not gotten together to discuss what might transpire Sunday in Atlanta.

“You know what, I don’t have a crystal ball and we just, obviously (with) yesterday being the day off and today starting early with our morning meetings, we haven’t gotten around (to talking) at this point other than talking football. That communication will continue, but really our focus right now is on this football team and the Atlanta Falcons.”

Team captain Lorenzo Alexander echoed McDermott’s comments about communication, but did offer some insight into what some players have talked about doing in the near future.

“We just want to continue to move forward and have positive dialogue,” the veteran linebacker said.  “Whether or not guys will continue to kneel, I don’t know. I don’t plan on kneeling anymore. Mine was more out of response to President Trump. I do know guys want to try and create some type of town forum, where we get people in the community together and just start having actual dialogue versus just protesting, but having something behind it to kind of help create change and actually happen.”

Linebacker Jerry Hughes, who has been outspoken on several social issues in the past, said that despite the issue being so divisive, he felt the Bills came together even more as a team last weekend through their team meeting and support for one another. 

“Yeah, I felt like it was great for everybody to say what they needed to say, to get it off their chest, and understand where everyone is coming from,” Hughes said.  “At the same time, respect their decision. We are buddies, we’re friends, we’re Americans. We are here to win football games and do our best to be better human beings.”

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