HOUSTON – The NFL encourages its players and fans to respect our nation’s flag while respecting the First Amendment rights of people wishing to express themselves politically, Commissioner Roger Goodell said in response to a question from a fan.
“We encourage all our players to respect the flag and all our fans to do the same and everybody in attendance. It’s a very important moment for us and you’re going to see it on Sunday. We celebrate the fact that we bring people together… To us, it’s a very important moment.”
Goodell and players Eli Manning, Larry Fitzgerald and Greg Olsen spent about an hour at a private event with about 100 people at the House of Blues on Friday. Fans, not reporters, got to ask all of the questions, and one query asked if players would be instructed to “respect the feelings of the veterans and not show disrespect for the flag.”
No names were mentioned but it seemed like a reference to the movement begun by San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick to kneel during the National Anthem. Goodell did not reference any individual in his answer.
“We have to respect people’s Constitutional rights, we understand that,” he said. “But for us, we’re all about patriotism.”
Indeed, the Super Bowl and events leading up to it have been draped in patriotic sentiment. Georgia’s Luke Bryan will sing the National Anthem before the game on Sunday, and in a press conference this week described his performance as a way to serve.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has received with the 2016 “Salute to Service Award presented by USAA” from the league’s Official Military Appreciation Sponsor. “The award was created to acknowledge the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL community to honor and support members of the military community,” a release from the NFL read. Quinn is to be recognized Saturday night at NFL Honors. USAA, which provides insurance and other services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in Quinn’s honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches, the release said.
“Coach Quinn truly embodies the spirit of our Salute to Service Award. Though he has no direct ties to the military, he’s made it his personal charge to show appreciation for their service and sacrifice,” Vice Admiral (Ret.) John Bird, USAA’s senior vice president of military affairs, said in a statement. “Coach Quinn is a very deserving recipient of this year’s award, and we wish him luck in Super Bowl LI, knowing that he has already made the NFL and the military community very proud.”