Cowboys kneel, but before the national anthem

The Dallas Cowboys, led by owner Jerry Jones, center, take a knee prior to the national anthem prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s criticism of protesting athletes (all times EDT):

8:50 p.m.

The Dallas Cowboys made a show of unity before their game against the Arizona Cardinals, but it wasn’t during the national anthem.

The Dallas players all kneeled with owner Jerry Jones and his family before a giant American flag was unfurled, drawing some boos from the Cardinals fans. They rose arm-in-arm just before the singing of the anthem.

Jones has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump and it was unclear if his team would protest during the anthem, as teams across the NFL did Sunday. The Cowboys kneeled near the 50-yard line.

The Cardinals gathered on the goal line as a team, some of them locking arms, during the anthem. Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell and his family and general manager Steve Keim joined them.

7:30 p.m.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says there were difficult conversations in the process of his team deciding to stay in the locker room during the national anthem Sunday.

That included supporters of President Donald Trump, who put aside their personal beliefs to show unity as a team, Carroll says.

The coach says, “They had a choice to do what they wanted to do and they decided to stay with the team, and that was a hard decision for a few guys and I totally understand that.”

Seattle’s players have been among the most outspoken in the NFL on social issues. Carroll says he’s not sure what if any form of protest the Seahawks will take when they return home Sunday to play the Indianapolis Colts.

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7:10 p.m.

The head of major league baseball’s players’ union is endorsing athletes’ right to protest during the national anthem.

Tony Clark, a former All-Star first baseman who is executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, has released a statement two days after Oakland Athletics rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Clark says, “We will always respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Clark adds, “The hope inherent in the non-violent protests we are seeing is of a collective coming together to address the divisive and culturally destructive challenges that exist … and that we are now seeing on display at the highest levels.”

5:30 p.m.

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman says he respects players’ views on political and social issues and “people are going to have to decide what makes them comfortable.”

Several pro hockey players have commented President Donald Trump’s call for protesting NFL players to be fired. Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler tweeted Saturday about the First Amendment, writing: “these are literally the principles the US was founded on. Come on, Mr. President.”

In a phone interview with The Associated Press, Bettman says social issues “are a matter of individual belief and individual choice.”

After Trump uninvited the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, the Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins say they’ve accepted an invitation to go to the White House.

— AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno

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5:15 p.m.

Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy says it’s “unfortunate” that President Donald Trump “has made our national anthem a divisive issue.”

But Van Gundy, a vocal critic of Trump, adds: “The positive is that people are now talking about some very important problems. There are serious issues of inequality and injustice in this country.”

Van Gundy was later asked about the assertion that sports figures should stick to sports.

He says: “Athletes have the same rights everybody else does, and if there’s a strength in our democracy it’s that we are encouraged to exercise those rights and speak out and to hold people in power in check. So the ‘stick to sports’ stuff — I don’t get it.”

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5 p.m.

Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker wants to make it clear that the NFL players who protested during the national anthem Sunday are not disrespecting the military.

Walker says that is not what this protest has been about and noted he’s been on USO tours, including one this past offseason.

Walker says the protests are about showing that NFL players care about each other and equal rights.

For the fans that don’t want to come to the games, Walker says “OK, bye.” He says fans have the freedom and choice not to attend.

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3:59 p.m.

The Phoenix Suns’ Tyson Chandler says President Donald Trump’s call for protesting NFL players to be fired is “very disheartening.”

Chandler says: “Those kinds of comments only divide. They don’t bring anything together.”

The 16-year NBA veteran spoke Monday at the Suns’ preseason media day.

Chandler is also taking issue with Trump referring to a protesting player as a “son of a bitch.” Chandler says: “You can’t get more insulting than that. … That wasn’t a shot at NFL players, that’s a shot at humanity.”

Chandler sees one positive from Sunday’s protests at NFL games nationwide: “guys stepping up and guys coming together from all walks of life.”

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3:55 p.m.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says he “strongly disagrees” with NFL players protesting during the national anthem.

The Republican, a former businessman, is part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. During Sunday’s game in Chicago, all but one of the Steelers stayed in the locker room during the anthem in protest of President Donald Trump’s criticism of NFL players.

Rauner says the protesters are “disrespecting” the country’s foundations and veterans. He says he “cannot and will not condone such behavior.” He adds that players have the freedom of expression and can “choose to be disrespectful.”

About 200 players nationwide kneeled or sat during the anthem Sunday.

Among other things, Trump has called for protesting players to be fired. Many players, owners and commissioners have chastised Trump for his remarks.

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3:25 p.m.

The leaders of the nation’s two biggest veterans’ groups are criticizing NFL player protests during the national anthem.

American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan chided what she called the politicization of sports events. She says the playing of the national anthem should be a time of unity, and that professional athletes who fail to show respect are “misguided and ungrateful.”

Keith Harman, the national commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars, says the player protests don’t “wash with millions of military veterans who have and continue to wear real uniforms on real battlefields around the globe.”

Their statements come after President Donald Trump attacked NFL players who kneel during the national anthem.

The American Legion and VFW together represent nearly four million military veterans.

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2:45 p.m.

NBA-All-Star LeBron James isn’t taking back calling President Donald Trump “a bum.”

James referred to Trump as “U bum” in a tweet on Saturday after the president pulled back an invitation to the Golden State Warriors to visit the White House. James said at a free-wheeling news conference on Monday that Trump doesn’t understand how many kids are looking up to the president of the United States for guidance, leadership and words of encouragement.

James said, “That’s what makes me more sick than anything.”

He referred to Trump as “that guy” in remarks at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ media day, and said the president “doesn’t understand the power that he has for being the leader of this beautiful country.”

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