ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan believes standing for the national anthem is a way for NFL players and coaches to show respect and give thanks to members of the armed forces.
''You've got to look at the gifts that we have, the opportunity that we have to play a great game is through the men and women that serve our country,'' Ryan said before practice on Sunday. ''And I think that's an opportunity right there just to show respect.''
He was asked his opinion a day after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he is refusing to stand for the anthem because he believes the United States oppresses African Americans and other minorities.
Without specifically mentioning Kaepernick, Ryan said he can appreciate how some players have personal or religious beliefs that lead them to not stand for the anthem.
''Any time when I talk to our team about that, if there's personal beliefs or whatever that keeps you from doing it, then I understand,'' he said.
However, Ryan added, he encourages his players to stand for the anthem, and to do so as a team in a straight line along the sideline.
''That's kind of our way of giving thanks,'' Ryan said. ''It's an important thing for me.''
Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said after his team's exhibition victory against the Jets on Saturday night that the American flag deserves respect - no matter the circumstances in the U.S. or beyond.
''The flag is the flag,'' Cruz said. ''Regardless of how you feel about things that are going on in America today, and the things that are going on across the world with gun violence and things of that nature, you've got to respect the flag, and you've got to stand up with your teammates. It's bigger than just you, in my opinion. I think you go up there, you're with a team, and you go and you know you pledge your allegiance to the flag and sing the national anthem with your team, and then you go about your business, whatever your beliefs are.
''Colin is his own man, he decided to sit down and that is his prerogative, but on a personal standpoint, I think you have to stand up there with your team and understand and it's this game and what's going on around this country is bigger than just you.''
Without directly addressing Kaepernick, Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio posted on Twitter his appreciation for the armed forces.
''I Appreciate the sacrifices of the brave who have fought for our freedom. We R Free to choose. I choose to (heart the American flag icons).''
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