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After Anthem Protests, N.F.L. Plots a Careful Path Forward

It is clear from interviews with N.F.L. officials and more than a dozen teams that owners and team executives would prefer that the protests end, both for personal reasons and because it risks inflaming the president, who has been a friend and ally of many of the owners, and alienating fans and sponsors. But they are also wary of appearing heavy handed and upsetting the image of unity that the league sought to project last weekend.

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From left, Adrian Amos, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Deon Bush and Josh Bellamy of the Chicago Bears knelt on the field during the national anthem before Thursday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers.

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Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

What has emerged in meetings across the league this week — from locker rooms to N.F.L. headquarters — is a strategy of not pushing back at an unpredictable president. Instead, the players, with input from team officials, are seeking to shape a message that shows their desire to stand together while still addressing the original intent of the protests: raising awareness of police brutality…

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