De­bate re­turns to spot­light

Carolina Panthers v Philadelphia Ea­gles

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Tonight brings a clash be­tween two of the NFL’s in-form teams, but the an­them de­bate threat­ens to over­shadow the spec­ta­cle after com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell ap­peared to put pres­sure on own­ers to stamp out player protests.

Carolina and Philadelphia both head into week six with a 4-1 record thanks to two stout de­fences and the re­spec­tive quar­ter­back­ing of Cam New­ton and Car­son Wentz.

But all eyes will once again be drawn to who kneels dur­ing the pre-game national an­them after Good­ell asked teams to ‘move past’ the is­sue that has drawn the ire of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“Like many of our fans, we be­lieve that ev­ery­one should stand for the National An­them,” Good­ell wrote in a memo to all 32 teams ear­lier this week.

“We want to hon­our our flag and our coun­try, and our fans ex­pect that of us. We also care deeply about our play­ers and re­spect their opin­ions and con­cerns about crit­i­cal so­cial is­sues.

“We need to move past this con­tro­versy, and we want to do that to­gether with our play­ers.”

How­ever, a league spokesman said that the NFL has no plans to rule that play­ers must stand dur­ing the an­them, in­sist­ing claims to the con­trary are ‘in­ac­cu­rate’.

Ahead of kick-off (04:25+1) the Ea­gles are sweat­ing on the fit­ness of de­fen­sive tackle Fletcher Cox and run­ning back Wen­dell Small­wood, who both missed last week’s win ver­sus Ari­zona.

Carolina’s No1: Cam New­ton.

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