LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — They were memorable images bookending a day around the NFL that will remain memorable — for absolutely nothing at all to do with football itself.
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan locked arms with players as “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed before the first game of the morning Sunday in London. Eleven hours later, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder did the same before the last game of the night not too far from the White House. It was a symbolic gesture by two of the very men called upon by President Donald Trump to punish NFLers for making any sort of Colin Kaepernick-esque statement during the national anthem.
(Not to get too cynical about how these scenes were orchestrated, but both teams tweeted out images of those owners in the pregame arm-in-arm pose with the one-word caption “Unity.” Also worth keeping in mind: Kahn and Snyder were among at least seven team owners who gave money to Trump’s inauguration committee.)
Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, one of the players at Snyder’s side Sunday, told a national television audience via NBC’s broadcast of Washington’s 27-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders that it was “one demonstration I feel, just, we had to do, just because of the tyranny that we face” from Trump.
“It’s sad that we have to go through stuff like that,” Norman said, “but at the end of the day, (if) we unite as one, nobody’s going to divide us.”
In the locker room later, Norman said Trump is “not welcome here in Washington” and that the president’s remarks in the preceding 48 hours amounted to “taking on 1,800 men” — roughly the number of NFL players.
After Trump drew sports into politics in an unprecedented manner, more than 200 players knelt or sat on a bench or raised a fist or, in the case of most of the Pittsburgh Steelers , remained indoors as national anthems echoed through stadiums. A week ago, a half-dozen players took a stance.
Some spectators applauded the moves. Others booed .
And Norman was hardly the only one offering opinions about the president.
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, for example, said the country needs “a little bit more wisdom in that office.”
Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller referred to Trump’s recent words as “an assault on our most cherished right, freedom of speech.”
This was, all in all, an unusual day for the NFL, one when the most significant discussion about the nation’s most popular sport had nothing to do with concussions or a late TD catch or a blocked kick.
There were still games played, of course. So in case you missed it, here are the other top topics after the season’s third Sunday:
NO FAVORITES LEAGUE
Be honest: Who expected Norman’s Redskins to shut down Derek Carr and the rest of the Raiders? Or Mike Glennon’s Chicago Bears to beat the Steelers 23-17 in OT ? Or Blake Bortles and the Jaguars to wallop the Baltimore Ravens 44-7 ? Or Josh McCown and the New York Jets to top the Miami Dolphins 20-6 ? Or the Buffalo Bills to outscore Miller and the Denver Broncos 26-16 ? Or the Tennessee Titans to run at will in a 33-27 win against the Legion of Boom and the Seattle Seahawks?
If you claim you were sure of any of those outcomes, you’re a genius … or you’re lying.
This is the sort of “Any Given Sunday” status of the league that helped drive the sport to massive popularity.
The Seahawks’ impressive run as a Super Bowl champion and annual contender is looking like it might just be nearing an end, and cornerback Richard Sherman certainly did not have his best performance against the Titans. Late in the first quarter, he drew three penalties on a single play. In the second, he nearly incited an all-out brawl between the teams with a late, high hit on QB Marcus Mariota.
Jake Elliott is a rookie kicker who just a week ago missed a 30-yard gimme field-goal attempt and shanked an extra point. So it came as quite a surprise to see him paraded off the field on teammates’ shoulders after squeezing a 61-yard field goal just inside the right upright as time ran out to give the Philadelphia Eagles a 27-24 win over the NFC East rival New York Giants. It was the longest kick in Eagles history and longest ever by an NFL rookie; the longest in league history went 64 yards.
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