FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the team will lock arms during the national anthem and will encourage the fans to do the same before they play the Bills on Sunday.
“For us, we will lock arms together during that time, and we would encourage our fans to do the same,” Quinn said Wednesday. “I think that would be kind of a nice tribute as we’re getting started. It’s an important time in our world. There are a lot of issues that are really important to talk about, and we’ll spend some time and we have as a team talking through some of those.”
Most of the Falcons, along with owner Arthur Blank, stood and locked arms during the singing of the national anthem before they played the Lions in Detroit on Sunday.
Defensive tackles Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe knelt. Several other players stood alone off to the right at attention.
“For us, you know how many things we do together as a group and that would seem appropriate for us,” Quinn said.
He expects all of the team to stand and participate. He said he spoke with Jarrett and Poe, but would not reveal if they requested that they stand or if they were ordered to stand.
“No, we don’t,” said Quinn when asked if he expects any of the Falcons to kneel. “The solidarity … and I think it’s interesting to note … by no means was it ever a protest of the anthem. This weekend was a difficult weekend that showed I’m pissed about something, or I’m upset and I want to react in a certain way.”
Quinn said he never foresaw that he would be organizing a protest as a head coach in the NFL.
“As you go through different things, sometimes there’s history that gets written right while we’re going through it, and this is one of those times,” Quinn said. “How do we handle those situations in the very best way?
“What’s fortunate is that we live in an area where civil rights had a pretty strong foundation on our country for years and years and years, and we’re really honored to be here and to be a part of this as a team … and our best way to show how solid we are is by showing everything that we do as a group.”
One of Quinn’s major projects since taking over the Falcons has been to get the team to bond. He moved lockers around and broke up the offensive and defensive players. They often refer to their closeness as “The Brotherhood.”
“You’ve heard me say that I wish the rest of the world could see our locker room, and to understand that Matt Ryan, who grew up in West Chester, Pa., and Julio Jones, who grew up in Foley, Ala., they didn’t grow up on the same block,” Quinn said. “I wish they could see how tight they are, and the friendship that they share.
“Although Matt can’t understand and hasn’t lived some of the same experiences, he wants to support players and teammates like crazy, and I really admire that about our team. We come from all walks, different spots, different groups and we recognize those differences with each other.”
The team has discussed its diversity in team meetings.
“We talked about it in the team meeting today, where I talked about Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman, who grew up in Liberty City, Fla., it couldn’t be the same, but what I can tell you is how connected they are and the love that they have for one another,” Quinn said. “I think that’s really important for the rest of the country to see how it can be, and I often have told how close this group is. . . and the way they connect on the field. It’s a real brotherhood that they have, and it’s an example of what it can be.
“I always think they provide such a unique example for so many people. I’m really proud of who they are.”
He wasn’t surprised that Poe and Jarrett knelt during the anthem as a reaction to President Donald Trump referring to NFL players who knelt as “son of bitches.”
“There was a lot of people that felt a certain way over the weekend, and that’s OK,” Quinn said. “It’s OK to have those feelings and have those emotions. How can we best show what we can be and provide the best example for our community in lots of ways?
“I think there were lots of ways, some real reactions this weekend, and that showed all through the country. You guys were witnesses to it, too, but the best way we generally can show that is to do it together.”
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