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President Donald Trump says he was not preoccupied with his fight with the NFL over the weekend at the expense of storm-ravaged Puerto Rico. (Sept. 26) AP

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To Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, it's a "no-brainer" that NFL players should stand for the playing of the national anthem.

But Democrat Phil Murphy, who has a solid lead over Guadagno and other candidates in New Jersey's race for governor, says he takes "my hat off to the players who stood tall and exercised their First Amendment rights."

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Guadagano and Murphy will square off at debates scheduled for Oct. 10 and Oct. 18 and the flap over the national anthem has added to their list of disagreements.

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The anthem controversy was re-energized by President Donald Trump last week, when he told an audience at a rally in Alabama that NFL players who kneel or otherwise take part in protests during the national anthem prior to games should be fired. 

Team owners should "get that son of a bitch off the field" for protesting during the national anthem, Trump said.

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Guadagno hasn't said it's a fireable offense, but says the national anthem isn't a time for protest.

"As the mother of an Air Force pilot, I believe this is a no-brainer," Guadagno said in a Facebook post. "When that national anthem comes on, no matter who you are or what issues you may have, you should stand and salute our flag. Our anthem should and must stay above the partisan political fray."

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Meanwhile, Murphy had a different take after appearing alongside former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal at a campaign rally in Newark, according to Politico.

"You can both be a patriot and also say, 'You know what, I have a right to speak my own mind,'" Murphy said. "I give them credit." 

Murphy used the occasion to take pokes at Trump.

Murphy, who is favored to win the governor's race this year, wondered aloud why Trump seized on the controversy given the many other issues the nation is facing.

"With all we have before us, whether it’s domestic challenges, trying to dismantle the health care system in our country ... a tax plan that would be hugely destructive to the middle class and to those who aspire to get into it, North Korea, Iran, global terrorism, whatever it is, why are we talking about the stuff we are talking about?" Murphy said.

Murphy has nearly twice as much support from voters as Guadagno, according to a recent Suffolk University survey of registered New Jersey voters who say they are likely to go to the polls on Nov. 7. Forty percent chose Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, while 22 percent picked Guadagno when given the names of the seven candidates for governor on the ballot and asked whom they will vote for or whom they lean toward. 

Bob Jordan bjordan@gannettnj.com

 

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