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Kneeling during national anthem shows signs of resurgence

Outrage following the death of George Floyd has sports leagues showing apparent willingness to allow the protest after efforts were made to stop it.

With commissioner Roger Goodell's announcement Friday that the NFL will support future, peaceful protests from its players, it has some wondering if that includes kneeling during the national anthem. Even President Donald Trump, who fanned the flames over the practice in 2017, wants an answer.

Indications are showing early that whether or not the NFL gives its blessing to the form of protest, more athletes are expected to take part after it was on the decline the past couple of years. Even the U.S. Soccer Federation, which banned its players from kneeling, is reportedly considering rescinding that rule.

This all comes amid growing nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd -- a black man -- while in the custody of Minneapolis police. An officer was seen on bystander video keeling on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes. 

Last Thursday, more than a dozen NFL players including 2018 NFL MVP and Super Bowl LIV MVP Patrick Mahomes called on the league to made several declarations, including "We, the National Football League, admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting."

The next day, Goodell read the declarations nearly word-for-word. There was a slight change to the one about protesting.

"We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," Goodell said.

It wasn't clear if Goodell was giving the green light for players to kneel during the anthem. In a late Sunday tweet, even Trump wanted to know the answer, echoing words he used when he blasted the practice in 2017.

"Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?" Trump tweeted.

Some players and officials are indicating it's going to happen with or without Goodell's blessing. Running back Adrian Peterson, a future Hall of Famer, told the Houston Chronicle Friday that "without a doubt" he would be kneeling this season and he expects other players to join him.

“I think more white guys will be kneeling as well,” a general manager told The Undefeated's Kimberley A. Martin.

CBS Sports reporter Jason LaCanfora says he has heard from players and agents that the protests will resume en masse and that it's possible Goodell could join them.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees apologized late last week after saying he "will never agree with anybody disrespecting" the American flag. After several players including his own teammates criticized his thinking, Brees said he came to the realization that the issue was not about the flag.

The U.S. Soccer Federation in 2017 adopted a rule saying players representing a national team must stand for the flag. It came after U.S. Women's National Team member Megan Rapinoe followed former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's example and kneeled.

The U.S. Women's and Men's National Teams both called on Monday for USSF to repeal the policy. They also want an apology and a statement by the federation that the policy was wrong. 

ESPN previously reported the USSF was considering a repeal, with a vote coming as early as Friday.

Kaepernick, in 2016, was the first to take a knee during the anthem to protest racial and social injustice. Kaepernick hasn't been on an NFL roster since the end of that season. The league has been accused of shutting him out due to his protests.

In 2017, Trump made clear his disdain for the practice, saying it disrespected the flag. He demanded players to be fired if they did not stand. Vice President Mike Pence left a game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers that year. Trump later revealed he told Pence to leave because several 49ers players kneeled during the anthem.

The NFL adopted a policy in 2018 requiring players to stand for the anthem if they were on the field, but it was pulled back before the season started.

Eric Reid -- a former teammate of Kaepernick -- Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson were reportedly the only three NFL players in 2019 to kneel during the anthem.

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