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NJ governor candidates take sides in NFL national anthem controversy

Kim Guadagno and Phil Murphy
Kim Guadagno (Jeff Zelevansky/Stringer: Getty Images) and Phil Murphy (Michael Symons photo)

The two major party candidates for governor in New Jersey are on opposite sides when it comes to the NFL national anthem controversy that was brought to the fore by President Donald Trump this weekend.

Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who is seeking to take the governor’s office from Chris Christie in November, said it was “a no-brainer” that everyone should stand for the flag salute and national anthem.

Democrat Phil Murphy, whose campaign has been based on opposition to Trump’s agenda and Christie’s record, said he takes “my hat off to the players who stood tall and exercised their First Amendment rights.”

Trump on Friday used the term “son of a bitch” to refer to players who demonstrated during the national anthem and called on them to be punished or fired. The comments and subsequent messages on Twitter revived a debate from last year when the then-San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick began sitting and then taking a knee during the anthem in order to protest the killing of unarmed black suspects by police.

What to expect if NJ student athletes protest during the national anthem

But Trump’s remarks incited more demonstrations, with players during this weekend’s games kneeling, locking arms or remaining in the locker rooms during the anthem.

Guadagno said her views are informed in part by having a son in the armed forces.

“As the mother of an Air Force pilot, I believe this is a no-brainer,” Guadagno said Monday on Facebook. “When that national anthem comes on, no matter who you are or what issues you may have, you should stand and salute our flag. Our anthem should and must stay above the partisan political fray.”

Murphy on Monday said the nation should be focused on more important issues, but added that you “can both be a patriot and also say, ‘you know what, I have a right to speak my own mind.’ I give them credit,” Politico New Jersey reported.

Watch this coach school players in how to behave during national anthem

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