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WATCH: Falcons, Saints join hands midfield in circle of unity before kickoff

The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints kicked off their game with a unique moment Monday night.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><span>  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;</span><span>  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.7";</span><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>With a message of togetherness, the Falcons and Saints lock arms and put the rivalry aside for a moment before #MNF. #Together #ATLvsNOPosted by Atlanta Falcons on Monday, September 26, 2016

After everyone stood for the national anthem, the teams left the sidelines and came together in the middle of the field where they held hands.

The two teams formed a circle around the 50-yard line for a moment of unity and reflection. Some players bowed their heads for a few moments before the teams returned to their sidelines.

>> Read more trending stories

The ESPN announcer said the players decided to do the show of unity in light of last week’s police shootings and the demonstrations that have been going on around the NFL.

“With a message of togetherness, the Falcons and Saints lock arms and put the rivalry aside for a moment before #MNF,” the Falcons posted on their Facebook page.

>> Watch the clip here

Panthers-Vikings game declared 'extraordinary event,' allowing for extra security

Sunday's NFL matchup between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings has been declared an "extraordinary event," which gives police more manpower, officials in Charlotte, North Carolina, said Saturday.

>> Read the press release here

According to a news release, Charlotte's interim city manager, Ron Kimble, made the declaration "to enhance public safety."

"An Extraordinary Event is defined as a large-scale​ event or an event of national or international significance which might attract a significant number of people to a certain geographic area of the city," the release said, adding that the designation "allows the city to modify its permitting process for activities such as parades and specifies particular items that are prohibited from being brought into certain boundaries of the event."

The game comes just one day after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released dashcam and body camera videos of the encounter in which an officer fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott. Scott's death Tuesday sparked protests throughout the week. 

>> Dashcam and body camera footage released in shooting of Keith Scott

Before the start of the 2016 season, the Panthers announced increased security changes.

There are now metal detectors and walk-through scanners, and surveillance has been doubled.

The team said earlier this week that they’ve been in contact with government officials and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to prepare for Sunday’s game.

>> Police provide explanation of video footage in shooting of Keith Scott

This week, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said that he's confident the department has the resources to keep the city safe.

Fans should also expect to see highly trained bomb-sniffing dogs around Bank of America stadium Sunday afternoon when the Panthers take on the Minnesota Vikings.

Panther’s fans said they aren’t overly concerned about game security.

>> Read more trending stories

“[I’m] a little nervous, but not too worried," one fan said. "I know they got a handle on things pretty well down here. There’s a lot of police and stuff uptown. You see the guys in uniform. I think it'll go pretty smoothly tomorrow."

A spokesman said the National Guard is still expected to be in Charlotte on Sunday, but could not say whether guardsmen would be on hand at Bank of America Stadium for the game.

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Kaepernick 'most disliked player' in NFL, but makes Time cover

Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest has polarized the nation, drawing vocal supporters and critics.

In a poll taken last week by E-Poll Marketing Research, the 49ers’ backup quarterback was “disliked a lot” by 29 percent of those polled, beating out over 350 players named in the survey. Among NFL fans, the dislike was stronger, with 36 percent saying that they disliked him a lot.

>> Read more trending stories

But while Kaepernick has taken his share of criticism for kneeling during the national anthem at games in protest of police brutality of African-Americans, he has also gained a good deal of support. The poll showed that 42 percent of African-Americans like Kaepernick “a lot.”

Kaepernick’s jersey became a best-seller after the backup quarterback began his public protest.

Kaepernick has received another honor: He is featured on the latest cover of Time magazine, which hit newsstands Friday.

Seahawks’ Baldwin calls for change after shootings

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin is calling for a review of training policies for law enforcement across the country, saying the message NFL players are trying to send with their actions during the national anthem now needs some follow-through.

>> Read more trending stories  

Baldwin gave a prepared statement on Thursday, similar to what teammate Richard Sherman did Wednesday. Baldwin said the situation has reached a point where action is needed. Baldwin said he has consulted with his father, a police officer, to gather information. "The situation that's upon us right now, what's going on in our country, it's devastating. ... We cannot tolerate this," Baldwin said.

Doug Baldwin begins his news conference reading from the US Constitution & calls for accountability. — Cale Ramaker (@CaleKIRO7) September 22, 2016 Doug Baldwin: demanding all 50 state Attorneys General review police training & emphasize deescalation over order. — Cale Ramaker (@CaleKIRO7) September 22, 2016

>> Related: Richard Sherman says anthem protests message getting lost

#Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin opened his availability today with a statement similar to teammate Richard Sherman pic.twitter.com/pcz1UUBYMT — Tim Booth (@ByTimBooth) September 22, 2016

Washington’s attorney general reached out to Baldwin on Twitter after the news conference.

.@DougBaldwinJr Watched your press conference today with interest. I’ll be reaching out soon to see if you'd like to sit down and chat. -BF — WA Attorney General (@AGOWA) September 22, 2016

Baldwin and Sherman's statements came in the wake of a pair of police shootings this week, one in Charlotte, North Carolina; and another in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Panthers’ Olsen: Sunday’s game must go on

More than 70,000 fans are expected in Charlotte this weekend to watch the Carolina Panthers vs. the Minnesota Vikings.

For now, the game will go on as scheduled at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

>> Read more trending stories  

The Panthers have tried to keep it business as usual on the field despite the chaos that’s unfolded the past two nights, but safety is never far from their minds.

Panthers’ tight end Greg Olsen said his family normally tailgates on game days, but this week they will likely head right to the stadium, not because he fears for their safety, but just in case.

Olsen said the game must go on. He said sport can heal at a time like this and as silly as it sounds, this game matters.

“Is the game itself as important as the issues at hand? No. But is the game itself a big piece of healing and bringing people together and letting people put their differences aside and just start that process of inclusion and being less divisive? I do,” Olsen said.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said he was a coach with the San Diego Chargers when San Diego was struck by wildfires.

“While the circumstances now are obviously different, playing again was an important step in that community's healing process,” Rivera said. 

Cam Newton on Charlotte unrest: 'I'm a firm believer of justice'

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and head coach Ron Rivera held their weekly press conference Wednesday, but the talk wasn’t about football. 

For about 12 minutes out of a 15-minute press conference availability, Newton didn’t talk about the Minnesota Vikings; instead, he talked about the unrest in Charlotte following a deadly officer-involved shooting.

>> Charlotte police shooting: State of emergency declared during 2nd night of violent protests

Newton spoke passionately about how he feels about his role in the community.

Newton make it clear before he started that he didn’t know all the facts of the shooting or what followed and that he intends on getting all the information before taking a stance.

>> PHOTOS: 2nd night of violent protests after Charlotte police shooting

He added that it’s hard for him to speak out at times because it’s a lose-lose situation. He’s either – in his own words – a traitor or he’s too real.

“If I say something, it's going to be critiqued and if I don't say something, ‘You fake or you’re flawed.’ I'm a firm believer of justice. I'm a firm believer of doing the right thing and I can't repeat it enough of just holding people accountable,” Newton said.

>> Watch the video here

While Newton was speaking, Rivera was listening to what his quarterback had to say. He said Newton is very thoughtful and sincere about his feelings, and he thinks about what he says before he talks.

But Rivera also said it wasn't fair to ask his players their thoughts on what he saw as a political matter, but he did offer his opinions on the violence that broke out Tuesday night.

>> Read more trending stories

“Maybe instead of tearing up your own city, maybe instead of doing things the wrong way, this is a Democratic society and like I said, vote, maybe. That's what we need to do – take a deep breath and do it the right way. I’m not sure if what happened last night was the right way,” Rivera said.

Texas high school spends $60 million on new football stadium, feeds rivalry

Two rival schools in Texas have taken their rivalry to a new level.

Allen High School in Allen, Texas, built a $60 million stadium, complete with a high-definition video screen, a three-tier press box and a capacity of 18,000 seats that nearly matches the Staples Center.

Could a high school football stadium really be any bigger?

Yes. The answer in Texas is always yes. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The Los Angeles Times reported that Allen's neighboring school district in McKinney, Texas, plans to outdo the Eagles' stadium with a nearly $63 million facility -- what could be the nation's most expensive high school stadium. It will be outfitted with a 55-foot-wide, high-definition video screen, an artificial grass field, seating for 12,000 and an adjacent 500-seat event center.

"Oh, it's a rivalry," said Adam Blanchet, a junior at one of the three high schools in the McKinney Independent School District that will use the new stadium. "I have pride knowing my district is going to have the most expensive stadium in the country."

The median household income in McKinney is $83,000. School taxes for property owners amount to $1.63 per $100 of assessed valuation, the Times reported.

To read more on how McKinney is funding the stadium and what students have to say about it, click here.

NFL says 'no final decision' on Lady Gaga performing at 2017 Super Bowl halftime show

A new report by Us Weekly magazine said Lady Gaga is the confirmed headliner for Super Bowl LI's halftime show, but the NFL says that's not the case.

This comes after rumors that the pop artist would be performing at the football championship event.

>> Read more trending stories  

The 30-year-old singer will perform at NRG Stadium in Houston on Feb. 5.

Gaga appeared at Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California, where she opened the event by singing the national anthem.

"This is one of the highest honors of my career," she said of the performance. "I get a chance to sing for all the athletes  who have been working so hard their whole lives for this moment -- the coaches, as well as the fans in the stands who are waiting for this moment. I think it marks what being an American is all about."

Related:  Adele turns down offer to perform at Super Bowl 

Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson and Beyoncé performed during the Super Bowl halftime show this year.

NFL's senior vice president of communications Natalie Ravitz told The Washington Post there has not been a final decision made

"Us Weekly ignored my on the record response," Ravitz tweeted in response to the magazine's report. "We've had conversations (with)  several fantastic artists about SB Halftime Show but no final decision."

"We have had conversations with several fantastic artists about the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show," she said in an email to The Washington Post. "However, at this point we do not have a final decision. We’re happy there is so much excitement about the show."

Gaga's fifth studio album, "Joanne," is set to be released Oct. 21. It will be her first solo album since 2013's "Artpop." The first single from the album, "Perfect Illusion," was released Sept. 9. It was produced by Mark Ronson.

Francis Scott Key descendant slams Colin Kaepernick for national anthem protest

A woman from Longview, Texas, who is a direct descendant of Francis Scott Key — yes, the man who wrote the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner” — has slammed Colin Kaepernick for his protest of the national anthem.

Shirley Isham, a verified great-great-great-granddaughter of Key, said “Kaepernick does not do himself any honor” by kneeling through the national anthem and maintains that “it’s a disservice to him.”

“When I hear [the anthem], I’m completely overwhelmed with emotion, because that song, it represents this country and the men and women who died for this country,” she said, according to KLTV. “I watched the Olympics, watched them get up on the podium, put their hands over their heart and the anthem played for them. And I stood up with my hand over my heart and I applauded. That’s how proud I was of them.”

>> Kaepernick responds to slam from ESPN's Trent Dilfer, calls comments 'ridiculous'

She added that Kaepernick's protest "offends me. I know it doesn’t offend a lot of people, [but] it offends me because it’s a personal thing. Because of who wrote it."

Isham elaborated in another interview with USA Today Sports.

>> Read more trending stories

“It just broke my heart to think that someone that gets so much money for playing a ball game, who is half black, half white, would do this,” she said. “So many of his black race are oppressed, but it’s not by the whites, it’s by their own people. Look who their leaders are, and the president. Has [Barack Obama] done anything for these people?”

She continued, "It’s very painful for me. It just blows my mind that somebody like [Kaepernick] would do what he does to dishonor the flag of this country and the national anthem when we have young men and women overseas fighting for this county, people that have died for this country.”

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