(CBS News) — As fans from around the world begin to flood Houston to watch the Super Bowl 51 face-off between New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, anticipation is building. But even though much of the talk this week is about game plans and bragging rights, CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor reports here is another conversation taking place, with sports and politics converging.
Every Sunday, Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu tries to separate himself from defenders, but last night, he was encouraging everyone to come together.
“It’s a very tough situation. I just pray that us as a country and a world be united,” Sanu said.
The 27-year-old Sanu is one of only a handful of Muslim players in the National Football League.
The impact of President Trump’s temporary ban on refugees is being felt even in the shadow of the biggest game in sports. For Sanu, it hits home. In the 1970s, his mother escaped war-torn Sierra Leone in Africa — coming to America for a better life. His mother eventually returned, but he stayed. Now the issue is fresh in his mind.
“Of course I know. Obviously my name is Mohamed, a lot of people know I’m Muslim, but I’m here because of my football talents, not because I’m Muslim,” Sanu said.
“It’s definitely one that deserves our time and attention and Mo and I did have a talk about it,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said.
Quinn addressed the ban and the bond he shares with his player.
“We have a close relationship. If he wanted anything to discuss I wanted him to know that I was here for him to listen in anyway,” Quinn said.
DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the National Football League Players Association, also acknowledged the impact the issue is having.
“Super Bowl week is a fantastic time for the country and fans of football, but man there’s other things going on right now in our world that based on your conversation you now know affects a young man on a granular level,” Smith said.
Sanu told CBS News Monday his mother is traveling from Sierra Leone and will make it in time to see her son play in the Super Bowl.