Just seconds after the last notes of “The Star-Spangled Banner” concluded and flag holders quickly folded the 100-yard wide Stars and Stripes on the AT&T Stadium field, Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters bounced out of the tunnel behind the team’s bench, an apparent compromise that brought an end to his sitting on the bench during the national anthem as a form of social protest.
Team chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said he discussed the issue with Peters within the last month.
“We had a great conversation,” Hunt said. “I’m not going to go into the details there but we had a really good discussion.”
Hunt continues making it abundantly clear he prefers his players stand during the national anthem. Head coach Andy Reid shares similar sentiments.
“We’ve made a point of dealing with this issue going back before the protests started last year,” Hunt said. “It was a message that Andy delivered to the team on the annual basis about the importance of standing.”
But while teams, players and owners throughout the NFL continuing deal with the issue of protests around the league, Hunt said he sees no issues within his franchise.
“Andy’s spoken to the team on a number of occasions and I’ve spoken to the leadership of the team and I’ve spoken to a handful of our players as well,” Hunt said. “But again it just really hasn’t been a big deal for our team. It’s not been an issue in the locker room.”
Last week the founder of Papa John’s Pizza blamed the protests during the national anthem for declining sales. Hunt said his franchise has yet to see any negative impact on its balance sheet.
“I don’t know if we think that it’s hurt the Chiefs business,” Hunt said. “I do think that it’s had an impact overall on the league probably through TV ratings would be the most important area.”
Hunt credited the team’s hot start for cutting through the turmoil impacting the rest of the league. Five primetime games in the first half of the season didn’t hurt either, he added.
“I really don’t and part of that’s been the good start that we’ve had this year and the large number of national TV games that helped our national ratings,” Hunt said.
Hunt said the team also tries to engage its players in personal issues that mean the most to them.
“Obviously we’ve had some guys who’ve sat or knelt during some of the games this year,” Hunt said. “But we’ve continued to work with them, communicate to them that we prefer for them to stand. But at the end of the day it’s their decision. We’ve also tried to give them a platform in the community to go deal with some of the issues that they care about.”
Peters continues to draw much of the focus in Kansas City. The 24-year-old Oakland, Calif., native chooses to take part in activities on his own. Much of his community work takes place outside the club’s community relations team.
“Marcus does some great things in the community in Oakland and now also in Kansas City, and he’s really doing that on his own, and I applaud him for doing that,” Hunt said.
He says he has no problems empowering his players to take action in their communities.
“By telling the guys that they have an opportunity to have a big impact and that they can work with our community relations team, whether the issue is racial inequality, social injustice, we’ll find a way for them to go make a difference,” Hunt said.