By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — On that rare occasion the national anthem is played in golf, U.S. captain Steve Stricker says his team will stand together at the Presidents Cup.
Stricker said he met with his four assistant captains, and then talked it over with his 12 players on a bus ride to New York on Tuesday for some television appearances. He said there was a quick consensus.
“I just wanted to know what they wanted to do and how we wanted to proceed as a team,” he said. “So we were going to do what we always do, and that’s take off our hat and put our hands across our chest and over our heart and respect the flag. So that’s what we’re planning on doing.”
His discussions followed a widespread demonstration during NFL games in response to President Donald Trump’s comments that players should stand for the national anthem or be fired. More than 200 NFL players and owners found ways to show dissent by either kneeling, locking arms in solidarity or staying in the locker room while the national anthem was played.
Golf typically doesn’t have to concern itself with ceremonial starts because opening tee times can vary by as many as six hours.
The Presidents Cup — and other team events — are different.
The national anthem is played during the opening ceremony, which is Thursday at Liberty National Golf Club. Anthems also are played from the country of each player on the International team — eight countries for these matches.
Golfers rarely delve into social issues, anyway, and tend to lean toward conservative views. If nothing else, Stricker wanted to be prepared for when it came up.
“I asked the guys this morning on the bus, ‘How do you guys want to handle it? What do you guys want to do?’ There wasn’t a hesitation on what they wanted to do,” he said. “It’s hard for me to speak about it. I’m very passionate about the flag and what it stands for. I respect it.”
He said he shared with the team an editorial by retired Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who said the national anthem gave athletes from different teams and fans with opposing views a few minutes to forget their differences.
“We talked about that a little bit,” Stricker said. “That’s where I am on that page. We know there’s problems. But let’s get together just for the short period of time and be OK with one another. It’s almost dividing us during this time it should be bringing us together.”
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