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Penn State coach James Franklin keeps open dialogue on current issues like anthem protests

| Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, 8:15 p.m.
Penn State coach James Franklin acknowledges running back Saquon Barkley as they walk off the field after defeating Iowa on Saturday.
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Penn State coach James Franklin acknowledges running back Saquon Barkley as they walk off the field after defeating Iowa on Saturday.
Penn State cornerback Lamont Wade, a Clairton graduate, celebrates after defeating Iowa on Sept. 23, 2017 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.
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Penn State cornerback Lamont Wade, a Clairton graduate, celebrates after defeating Iowa on Sept. 23, 2017 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

STATE COLLEGE — James Franklin addressed the escalating controversy brewing in professional and collegiate athletics regarding national anthem protests at his press conference Tuesday.

“What's so great about this country is that people have the ability to express themselves and people have the ability to have different opinions and different perspectives, but that we respect one another and we respect all different backgrounds,” Franklin said. “That's what makes this country so special.”

The protests reached Penn State on Sunday night when cornerback Lamont Wade (Clairton) posted a video to his personal YouTube account in which he voiced his support for Colin Kaepernick and other athletes kneeling during the anthem.

In the video, Wade explained the different American values each of the flag's colors represent and why he felt President Trump was not advocating for them.

“This is not just a flag protest or a national anthem ban,” Wade said in his video, which had more than 5,000 views as of Tuesday night. “This is just trying to shed light on what our country was born on. Something I guess the president has lost sight of.”

Franklin said he was proud of the way Wade protested a cause he thinks is just. The fourth-year coach referenced how much thought Wade put into his argument before he made it, instead of going on an impulsive “emotional outburst.”

Since he arrived on campus, Franklin has supported open dialogue between his players about current issues. Last season, when Kaepernick first made headlines for kneeling for the anthem, Franklin talked with his players about the situation and allowed them to share their thoughts on the matter.

“We are able to have really good discussion as a family,” Franklin said. “There's guys that are voicing their opinions with their teammates face-to-face. There's guys that are voicing their opinion socially.

“We're in a free country, and people have the ability to express themselves the way they think is right, and it's our job as educators and as coaches, especially at collegiate level, to just make sure our guys are being thoughtful about it.”

Room to grow

Franklin highlighted some areas in which Penn State needs to improve before its game against Indiana, including offensive line and route running.

Offensively, the Nittany Lions had a tough time against the Iowa, as quarterback Trace McSorley faced pressure all night. He was sacked four times and had a handful of passes deflected at the line of scrimmage.

Part of the reason for the lack of protection was the absence of right tackle Chasz Wright and veteran lineman Andrew Nelson. Wright didn't dress for the game, and Nelson was limited by an injury. Franklin said Wright will be back for this week's game against the Hoosiers.

On several plays, Franklin said his receivers weren't running their routes as crisp as they normally do.

“On the back side, our routes, we're kind of shortcutting routes. We're rolling routes,” Franklin said. “We're not getting to our depth. So that's why you saw way too many (defenders) near the ball.”

Matt Martell is a freelance writer.

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