INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It promises to be an emotional opener Sunday as the Indianapolis Colts and NFL commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
But among the various moments on the local agenda, it’s fair to wonder if the silent protest that’s dotted the national landscape in recent weeks – a player not standing during the playing of the national anthem – might occur at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The team doesn’t have a policy, according to chief operating officer Pete Ward, but strongly encourages “everyone at our games to stand for our national anthem.’’
He added, the team “understands that doing so is a personal decision.’’
Coach Chuck Pagano was asked Friday if he had a stance on a player not standing during the playing of the national anthem.
“I think that’s a great question,’’ he replied. “We live in a great country and part of living in this country is we get to choose. I’m grateful for all the men and women who have fought and gave their lives and continue to give their lives for that freedom.’’
The past two offseasons, Pagano has participated in a USO tour that visited U.S. military bases overseas. This spring, he was joined by Mike Adams, Anthony Castonzo, D’Qwell Jackson and Pat McAfee. The previous spring, the Colts’ contingent included Pagano, Andrew Luck and Dwayne Allen.
“There’s not one day that I take for granted and none of us should take for granted because in six and a half days we went around the world in a C-17 and it just made for a greater appreciation for what we have and the freedom that we enjoy,’’ Pagano said.
“Again, living in this country, we get to choose and we’re all grateful for that.’’
Recently, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick caused a stir by sitting on the bench during the national anthem in a preseason game. On another occasion, he took a knee to protest against social injustice against African-Americans and other minorities.
Others have followed his lead, including 49ers teammate Eric Reid, Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane and Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall.
According to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.’’
The Colts’ remembrance of 9/11 includes:
- A Garrison Flag hung from two fire engines in American Family Insurance Touchdown Town outside the stadium.
- American flags being distributed to the first 60,000 fans.
- 11 first responders running out with Colts players during pre-game introductions.
- The traditional full-field flag displayed for the national anthem being held by 200 first responders.
- The national anthem being sung by IMPD Officer Christopher Wilburn.
- A joint Color Guard from IMPD and IFD.
The Colts also have invited Indiana Olympians to the game, and they’ll be recognized at halftime.