National News

Super Bowl champion, US Marine talk pigskin and politics

Posted October 2, 2017 5:24 p.m. EDT

— It's week four of NFL football and outside Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium, excitement is pushing level 10.

The Buffalo Bills are in town-bringing their northern New York attitude down South.

"Win, lose or tie; Bills 'til I die," said Buffalo fan Matthew Bullen. "We support our team no matter what."

Judging from the black-and-red jerseys on Atlanta city streets Sunday afternoon, Falcons fans are supporting their team, too.

"Rise up," shouted a Mercedes-Benz Stadium employee on a megaphone-pumping up the crowd going through the ticket gates.

As Atlanta rises up, the country is watching who is kneeling down.

"A lot of these guys are stepping up for what they believe in," said Super Bowl champion and former NFL receiver Andre Caldwell.

Caldwell and his friends from California were in Atlanta to watch the Falcons-Bills game. Minutes before kickoff, the University of Florida national champion shared his thoughts about players protesting social injustice before the national anthem.

"Football is definitely the right time" Caldwell said. "You can't shut these guys up. You can't use these guys and turn them on and off when you want to.

"(When) social issues present themselves, you can't tell them to be quiet just because it's not convenient for you."

United States Marine Corps veteran James Michael Ingram says he's fine with players protesting--just not during the national anthem.

"Is it bringing the country together? Absolutely not," Ingram said while waiting to get in Falcons-Bills game. "It's unfortunate that some people disrespect what some people have fought so hard for.

"But that's what we fight for: for people to have their own opinions."

Football in Atlanta and across America now transcending sport-with eyes glued on the culture and the scoreboard.