Hall of Fame players Deion Sanders and Brian Urlacher recently offered their thoughts on the NFL's national anthem controversy and the league's new rule prohibiting players from taking a knee during "The Star-Spangled Banner." Both men told KTVT-TV that the controversy is a distraction and called on players to do more than just take a knee if they're really concerned about racial injustice.
They also offered their thoughts on the recent controversy about the Super Bowl champions visiting the White House.
What's the rule?
Following a year of controversy as players knelt on the sideline during the playing of the national anthem to bring awareness to police brutality and racial issues in the U.S., the NFL announced a new rule last month banning such demonstrations.
The rule states that players on the field are required to stand, but they may choose to stay in the locker room during the national anthem. Teams will be fined for any players who take a knee on the field during the anthem.
What did the Hall of Famers say?
Former Chicago Bears linebacker Urlacher was supportive of the NFL's decision.
“I like the policy," he told KTVT. "If you want to go out for the anthem, you have that option. If you don’t want to go out for the anthem and stand, then you don’t have to go out there and stand.”
Sanders, a former defensive back with the Dallas Cowboys, and Urlacher agreed that the issue has become a distraction for the game.
"Let’s just play ball, man," Sanders said. "That’s all the fans want to see. They want to see you get on the field and give it your all."
The two stars encouraged protesting players to do more than just take a knee if fighting racial injustice is really what they're worried about.
“Go out in your communities and do something about it," Urlacher advised. "You know, back up what you’re doing on the field.”
"Get educated on just why you’re kneeling," Sanders said. "Get educated on why you’re taking a stand. You just got to get educated — and don’t just do it because the cameras are there to capture you."
What about the Eagles visit to the White House?
Regarding the controversy over the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles visiting the White House, Urlacher remarked, "I haven’t had a chance to go to the White House because we didn’t win a Super Bowl ring, but I think it would be a cool honor to go. But things are happening and it’s a different world we live in now."
The annual White House visit for the Eagles has been a source of controversy this year, after their planned visit was cancelled by the White House, sparking a war of words among the team, Philadelphia's mayor, and the Trump administration.