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No national anthem protests made prior to NASCAR race

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LOUDON, N.H. -- It appeared that no drivers, crew or other team members participated in a protest during the national anthem to start the NASCAR Cup series race Sunday.

Several team owners and executives had said they wouldn't want anyone in their organizations to protest.

Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty's sentiments took it a step further.

"Anybody that don't stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period," Petty said. "What got 'em where they're at? The United States."

Asked if a protester at Richard Petty Motorsports would be fired, Petty said, "You're right."

However, when reached by ESPN, Andy Murstein, the majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, said he would not fire an employee who protests.

"I would sit down with them and say it's the wrong thing to do that, and many people, including myself, view it as an affront to our great country," Murstein told ESPN in a text message. "If there is disenchantment towards the president or a few bad law enforcement officers, don't have it cross over to all that is still good and right about our country."

Longtime team owner Richard Childress said he told his team that protesting would "get you a ride on a Greyhound bus."

"Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in," Childress added. "So many people gave their lives for it. This is America."

On Monday morning, Trump said he was proud of NASCAR and its fans for supporting the flag.

NASCAR responded to the dialogue surrounding the national anthem in a statement Monday.

"Sports are a unifying influence in our society, bringing people of differing backgrounds and beliefs together," the statement read. "Our respect for the national anthem has always been a hallmark of our pre-race events. Thanks to the sacrifices of many, we live in a country of unparalleled freedoms and countless liberties, including the right to peacefully express one's opinion."

Team owner Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls as coach of the Washington Redskins, said of the anthem that "so much has been sacrificed for our country and our flag. It's a big deal for us to honor America."

"I'm proud of the way we've represented ourselves, and I'm proud of this sport, too," Gibbs said after JGR driver Kyle Busch won at New Hampshire. "I think this sport has a certain way they look at things. I really appreciate that."

Murstein said he understood the feelings of both Petty and Childress.

"They are all proud Americans who have lived through world wars and turbulent times," Murstein told ESPN. "While I respect their thoughts -- and personally, I think it's the wrong thing to kneel -- I wouldn't fire someone for expressing their feelings."

NASCAR instructs its drivers to not get into their cars prior to the national anthem and gives drivers five minutes after the anthem to get settled in their cars before the command to start engines.

"The flag isn't a flag of a few people," said Murstein, a founder and president of Medallion Financial Corp. "It stands for all of America. Yes, there are problems here, but they are nothing close to the problems in North Korea and other parts of the world.

"We must come together as Americans and respect everyone and everything, especially our flag, which is still the symbol of the United States, the greatest country in the world."

Team owner Chip Ganassi said he supports comments made Sunday by Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, whose players stayed in the locker room during the national anthem.

Said Tomlin: "We're not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. also weighed in with his thoughts Monday morning.

ESPN's Bob Pockrass and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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