Will Any Players Take a Knee on Super Bowl Sunday?

What if the controversy that engulfed the NFL all of 2017 emerges with millions tuned in to watch the New England Patriots face off against the Philadelphia Eagles?

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Getty Images, File

The teams are finally set. The pricey commercials are ready to go. The prop bets are being made and the Super Bowl party invites are going out. 

As Super Bowl LII approaches, nearly everything about the game has been mapped out. Even Justin Timberlake promises he'll be on his best behavior.

But what about the action on the field before the game even begins? What if the controversy that engulfed the NFL all of 2017 surfaces with millions tuned in to watch the New England Patriots play the Philadelphia Eagles?

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What if one of the NFL players takes a knee during the national anthem?

Well, the question actually came up and was addressed earlier this month at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. NBC Sports executive producer Fred Gaudelli, who will produce Super Bowl LII, said if any players take a knee during the anthem the event would be covered live.

“The Super Bowl is a live event, just like 'Sunday Night Football.’ When you’re covering a live event, you’re covering what's happening. So if there are players that choose to kneel, they will be shown live," Gaudelli said. "I would say, probably since Thanksgiving, a lot of that has kind of dissipated and died down. It’s certainly possible it could happen again.”

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick initiated the protests in 2016 to bring attention to racial inequality and police brutality against minorities. That action not only proved divisive among the NFL and its fan base, but quickly spilled over into the political arena.

During a speech at a political rally in Huntsville, Alabama, in late September, President Donald Trump said, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a b------ off the field right now, out, he's fired, he's fired."

At the peak of the protests during the NFL season's third week, roughly 200 players knelt or showed some other form of discontent, according to the Associated Press. Protests died down each week after that.

Protesting at sporting events is hardly a new phenomenon. In 1968 U.S. Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos — after winning gold and bronze respectively in the 200-meter sprint — raised black-gloved fists during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. The moment became one of the most iconic sports images of the 20th century.

The Super Bowl is one the most-watched events globally. Just last year, 113 million viewers tuned in to see the Patriots mount a historic comeback to defeat the Falcons.

So if one of the players from either the Pats or Eagles decides the moment is right to reignite the kneeling protest, he could find himself written onto the pages of history.

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