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Phoenix NFL Fans Are Divided Over National Anthem Controversy


President Trump is still tweeting about NFL players kneeling before the national anthem. This morning, the president wrote "ratings for NFL football are way down except before game starts, when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected" - exclamation point - end quote. Now, this comes after a game last night between the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys. Players locked arms and kneeled before the anthem played. Phil Latzman from member station KJZZ in Phoenix was with fans watching that game, and he discovered most of them were in lockstep with the president.


PHIL LATZMAN, BYLINE: A noisy sports bar in suburban Phoenix suddenly falls silent as all eyes and ears are focused on the national anthem as it plays on TVs in the background.


JORDIN SPARKS: (Singing) And the home of the brave.


LATZMAN: Among those watching intently is Mike Juckniess, who leads a gathering of the St. Patrick Men's Club watching the Monday night game. The Vietnam-era veteran feels Trump's remarks were justified.

MIKE JUCKNIESS: These guys are making a lot of money and everything. And we got people overseas with our servicemen and everything today. They're losing their lives so these guys can play and make 11 million bucks a year or whatever it is.

LATZMAN: And most in the church club agree with Mike, believing that the president has every right to intercede, including Bill St. James and Gene Bailey.

BILL ST. JAMES: He's not political, and he has the freedom of speech like we all do, so I applaud him for it.

GENE BAILEY: He's our president. He represents the people. And I think for something as critical as honoring our country, he should speak out.

LATZMAN: But not everyone sees it that way. John Cronin says it's just not the president's place, especially in light of recent events.

JOHN CRONIN: I think that he's got a lot of other things he should be focusing on. Puerto Rico - it's a United States territory, and they're begging for somebody to help them. And he's focusing on trying to get people fired from football.

LATZMAN: But that was not the consensus. Mike Juckniess's wife, Mary, says she plans to heed the president's call to boycott the NFL games after this one.

MARY JUCKNIESS: Everybody except the Cardinals game tonight because my husband made me come. But other than that, we've cut off football for the year. We have DIRECTV. We watch everything. We're done with them until they smarten up.

LATZMAN: But when I asked Mike if he agrees with his wife about boycotting the NFL, he hesitates.

MIKE JUCKNIESS: We're thinking about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He wouldn't do that.

MIKE JUCKNIESS: If she said it, then she will do it.

LATZMAN: For NPR News, I'm Phil Latzman in Scottsdale, Ariz.

(SOUNDBITE OF RHYMEFEST'S "BANG THE BALL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Phil Latzman is an award-winning journalist who has spent two decades covering both news and sports in South Florida.
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