Carolina Panthers

Panthers DE Julius Peppers explains decision to stay off field for national anthem

Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers didn’t report to the field until after the national anthem Sunday, a move he said was in response to comments by President Donald Trump.

Peppers said his protest didn’t hurt anyone, and that he did it in response to the President saying NFL players who protest during the anthem should be “fired” by their team.

Peppers, who emerged from the tunnel after the anthem was over, said he wanted to make a statement, but that he didn’t want it to be about the flag.

The protest, Peppers said, wasn’t about the flag, or the military, or the anthem, but directly about President Trump’s remarks.

He said he thought those comments were an attack on his brothers.

Peppers said he didn’t discuss his decision with teammates beforehand, so they wouldn’t feel they had to join him.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera, asked in his news conference about the anthem protests around the league on Sunday, said he hoped his players would stand at attention, with a hand over their heart, during the anthem.

But he also said he wants those players to envision a world without racism, hatred or bigotry, and work toward it.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071, @jourdanrodrigue

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