Super Bowl LII: Follow Along With NPR's Live-Blog As Patriots Face Eagles

A fan braves the chill outside U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, before Super Bowl LII. With temperatures in the single digits Sunday, it is expected to be the coldest Super Bowl ever, though thankfully, the game will be played in balmy temperatures indoors.

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Jeff Roberson/AP

Nearly five months and more than 260 games since the NFL season kicked off with the New England Patriots hosting the opener, here we are once more: the Patriots, back in familiar territory after last year’s historic Super Bowl comeback, are set to square off with the Philadelphia Eagles to defend their title.

And while the Eagles enter the game as underdogs, only the betting line is offering clear-cut answers. In nearly every other respect, this game is riddled with questions.

Will Nick Foles, the Eagles’ oft-maligned backup quarterback, repeat his masterful NFC Championship performance and manage to do what seemed impossible just a few week’s ago — derailing yet another dream season from Tom Brady, Greatest of All Time™? Will a flexible, athletic Eagles offense find holes in a Patriots defense that has looked spotty at times this year? Will Justin Timberlake break out a hologram of Prince during his halftime show? (Signs on that one are now pointing to no.)

Will this Philly superfan sweat through his full-body dog costume by halftime?

Eagles fan who couldn’t find mask bought whole underdog costume #amazon#superbowlpic.twitter.com/cBLzNhRhdA

— Tom MacDonald–WHYY (@TMacDonaldWHYY) February 4, 2018

Anyway, we’ll be here to answer these questions — and more! — all night. Follow along with our live-blog once the game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET. NPR and member station reporters will be covering all the action, both on the field and off.

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Cyprus President Anastasiades Beats Leftist Challenger, Wins Another 5-Year Term

President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades waves to his supporters after casting his ballot at a polling station in the coastal city of Limassol on Sunday during the second round of the Cyprus presidential elections.

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AMIR MAKAR/AFP/Getty Images

Incumbent Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades defeated leftist challenger Stavros Malas and won another five-year term in a run-off election on Sunday.

The 71-year-old conservative won 55.9 percent of the vote with 95 percent of votes counted. Malas conceded an hour after the polls closed, Reuters reported. Malas, a 50-year-old geneticist who served as the republic’s health minister in the former left-wing administration, had also come ran against Anastasiades in 2013.

But the suspense was tight. The office of the president of Cyprus is elected using a two-round voting system, and a first round saw Anastasiades win an inconclusive 34 percent of the vote and Malas win an unexpected 29 percent percent of the vote.

With all second round votes counted, Anastasiades won 56 percent of the vote against Malas’ 44 percent.

The island in the Mediterranean has been divided since 1974, when “Turkish troops invaded following a Greek-backed coup,” as NPR’s Michele Kelemen has reported. The Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities are separated by a U.N. buffer zone, and “many attempts to reunite the island have failed.”

The vote took place barely seven months after the latest round of peace talks ended abruptly.

Anastasiades steered the Cyprus’ economy to recovery after a 2013 financial crisis, and has pledged to seek the resumption of U.N.-mediated peace talks.

“A new era begins tomorrow,” Anastasiades told supporters outside of his election campaign headquarters, reported Al Jazeera. “People demand cooperation and unity because this is the only way to solve the problems we’re facing.”

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Costa Rica Votes For A New President, With Same-Sex Marriage Rights At The Forefront

A voter casts her ballot at a polling station during Costa Rica’s presidential election, on Sunday.

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EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP/Getty Images

Costa Ricans are heading to the polls on Sunday to choose a new president. The race is largely upended by a debate over gay rights as many candidates in the crowded field strongly oppose same-sex marriage, which many Latin American countries have recently instated.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights called for equal sex civil marriage rights, early in 2018. IACHR decisions are binding for Costa Rica, as signatory countries are required to allow it.

All of the race’s candidates announced their support or willingness to respect the IACHR ruling, with the exception of evangelist and contemporary Christian singer Fabricio Alvarado of the National Restoration Party.

He jumped to first place in the polls at around 17 percent, up from 3 to 5 percent before his expressing his stance, according to a poll published Jan. 31 by the University of Costa Rica’s Center for Research and Political Studies. No other candidates have condemned the ruling.

Following Alvarado are three candidates who were top in the polls until the ruling. Trailing behind Alvarado is Antonio Álvarez Desanti, a banana businessman and candidate of the National Liberation Party, which has won the presidency in nine out of the 16 elections. Juan Diego Castro of the National Integration Party and Rodolfo Piza Rocafort of the Social Christian Unity Party are also contenders. There are 13 candidates altogether.

The Pew Research Center found that 29 percent of Costa Ricans support same-sex marriage, and 61 percent are opposed. The country’s 3.3 million voters are predominantly Roman Catholic.

If no candidate tops 40 percent in the vote, the first two finishers advance to a runoff scheduled for April 1 — which happens to be Easter Sunday.

“Poll respondents are more fickle than ever, going from undecided to decided and back,” said Felipe Alpízar, director of the University of Costa Rica’s Center for Research and Political Studies.

Costa Rica’s current president, Luis Guillermo Solís, won the presidency in a landslide four years ago, and is barred by law from running for a second term after an influence peddling scandal.

Polls will close Sunday at 9 p.m. E.T.

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For Two Countries, The Dispute Over Macedonia's Name Is Rooted In National Identity

Greek protesters in Thessaloniki wave flags and banners during a rally against the use of the term “Macedonia” for the neighboring country’s name on Jan. 21. Greek authorities argue that the name Macedonia might suggest that Skopje has territorial claims to the northern Greek region of the same name with Thessaloniki as its capital.

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Giannis Papanikos/AP

To an outsider, this most Balkan of conflicts looks absurd: two countries fighting over a name and a historical icon who lived 25 centuries ago.

But the 26-year-old dispute between two southeastern European neighbors — Greece and Macedonia, over who owns the name “Macedonia” — is seen by both sides as existential and essential to national identity.

Greece, which prizes its ancient history above everything else, is especially sensitive.

On Sunday, more than 140,000 Greeks marched to parliament in Athens during a flag-waving “Macedonia is Greece” rally, chanting that the name “is in our soul.”

Though the attendance fell far short of the more than 1 million that organizers predicted, it rivaled the size of crowds seen during major anti-austerity protests.

“Macedonia was, is and will forever be Greek,” declared one of the speakers, 92-year-old Mikis Theodorakis, the country’s greatest living composer, known for his score to “Zorba the Greek.”

Theodorakis was once an icon of the left for fighting dictators. The Macedonia protest is also supported by the conservative Greek Orthodox Church and ultranationalists including the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.

“In Greece, the name dispute has taken on such symbolism, that it’s become totemic,” says James Ker-Lindsay, a Balkans scholar and professor at St. Mary’s University in the U.K. “It has become wrapped up in history and identity so it’s not easy for people to be reasonable.”

Before Yugoslavia disintegrated, it had a republic called Macedonia, which broke away in 1991 and has since been recognized as the “Republic of Macedonia” by more than 140 nations, including the U.S., China and Russia.

But it hasn’t been able to join NATO or the European Union because Greece opposes its name.

Greece has a northern province called Macedonia, also the cradle of ancient Macedonia and its most famous leader, Alexander the Great. Greece considers it a non-negotiable part of its history. Its neighbor, meanwhile, considers Alexander — who incorporated its land into an empire that extended to India — part of local identity. Macedonia’s flag is emblazoned with the Sun of Vergina — a symbol associated with the dynasty of Alexander and his father Philip.

As a result, previous Greek governments have claimed that the Republic of Macedonia— tiny, impoverished and with virtually no military might — also has territorial designs on its province.

So Greece calls its neighbor Skopje, after the capital, or Fyrom, the acronym for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the provisional name under which it was admitted to the United Nations.

“Greece does not bear any real costs, other than to its reputation, for blocking the name,” Ker-Lindsay says. “But the name issue has done so much harm to Macedonia, which was an early frontrunner to join the EU after it broke away from Yugoslavia. It’s also harmed stability in the Balkans. It would be irresponsible not to solve this now.”

The current governments of Greece and Macedonia, noting the countries have strong business and tourism ties despite the politics of the name issue, agreed and re-started un-mediated negotiations this year.

“We have to respect this history and learn from it but not be trapped in it,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, told Reuters recently. His Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov called the moment a “historic opportunity.”

Dimitrov is part of a reformist new government in Macedonia that wants detente with Greece and is eager to get the country on a path to EU and NATO accession.

The previous government, led by ultranationalist Nikola Gruevski, who is being tried on graft and wiretapping charges, aggravated Greece by naming the airport and main highway “Alexander the Great” and filling the capital, Skopje, with what Macedonian architect Martin Panovski called “third-rate” statues of Alexander and his parents, Philip and Olympias. (“Is this kitsch really the way to answer Greece?” he lamented in 2015.)

By contrast, the current prime minister, Zoran Zaev, has promised to rename the airport and highway and take down an enormous bronze statue called “Warrior on a Horse” (Alexander, of course). In an interview with NPR in 2015, when he was opposition leader, he said such moves only “create enemies.”And he assures Greece that Macedonia has no designs on its land.

Zaev and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras have come up with composite names, including Upper Macedonia, New Macedonia, Northern Macedonia and Vardar Macedonia (Vardar is the name of the major river in there).

Matthew Nimetz, a retired U.S. diplomat who has served as U.N. mediator on the name issue for nearly 24 years, said he was optimistic. But a recent poll shows that 59 percent of Greeks reject even the composite name.

The first sign of that came in Thessaloniki last month, where there was another rally drawing a huge crowd. Protesters clad in replicas of the metal breastplates and helmuts ostensibly worn by Alexander’s ancient Macedonian army massed around a statue of the conquerer, near a giant banner that read, “There is one Macedonia and it is Greek!”

More recently, Kotzias, the foreign minister, received death threats.

Greece has not yet faced any real costs because its stance, and any efforts by the EU to force it to back down will likely backfire, Ker-Lindsay says.

And because Greek politicians since the 1990s have manipulated the issue to advance their careers, they have not explained how it’s actually weakening Greece’s clout in the Balkans and beyond, says Ioannis Armakolas, who specializes in southeastern Europe as a professor at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Instead, many Greeks cling to the belief that, “Some kind of diplomatic master stroke is possible and the fact that more than 100 countries already call Greece’s neighbor the republic of Macedonia can somehow be overturned or ignored,” says Nick Malkoutzis, editor of the Athens-based political analysis site Macropolis. “That is detached from reality.”

Some Greeks do agree. One event posted on Facebook callsfor a mock protest to force Libya to change the name of its capital, Tripoli, because Greece also has a city with the same name.

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Gowdy: 'There's Going To Be A Russia Probe, Even Without A Dossier'

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., says the recent release of the GOP House Intelligence Committee memo will not have “any impact on the Russia probe.”

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The recently-released Republican memo alleging abuses of covert surveillance powers by the Justice Department and FBI to investigate a former member of President Trump’s campaign team will not have “any impact on the Russia probe,” said Republican Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

Gowdy, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. He also said that even if the controversial Steele dossier didn’t exist, that there would still be a Russia investigation.

“There’s going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier,” Gowdy said.

Gowdy’s appearance comes just days after Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee made public a previously classified three and a half page document authored by the committee staff under the guidance of chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. President Trump declassified the memo and authorized its release on Friday.

The document alleges that the FBI and Justice Department relied on the unverified Russia dossier compiled by a former British spy, Christopher Steele, to obtain court approval under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor former Trump campaign foreign policy aide Carter Page.

Steele was commissioned by the political research firm Fusion GPS, which was hired by Trump’s political opponents, including the conservative news site the Washington Free Beacon, the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

On Saturday the President tweeted that the release of the memo “totally vindicates” him and called the investigation being led by special counsel Robert Mueller looking into possible connections between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia “an American disgrace.”

But the so-called Nunes memo says the Steele dossier did not launch the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. The memo confirms previous reports that overtures by Russian operatives to a junior campaign adviser are what sparked the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.

George Papadopoulos — who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those contacts — “triggered” the opening of the investigation, the memo says.

Court documents have described offers that Papadopoulos received of “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and “off the record” meetings involving him and other campaign aides and Russian leaders.

Gowdy, who earlier in the week announced his retirement from Congress, did not agree with Trump that the memo absolved him of any wrongdoing. But Gowdy did say the release of the memo has no connection to many of the investigative threads in the Russia probe.

“So to the extent the memo deals with the dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower. The dossier has nothing to with the email sent to Cambridge Analytica. The dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopolous’ meeting in Great Britain. It also has nothing to do with obstruction of justice,” Gowdy said.

Gowdy also told CBS’s Margaret Brennan that the FISA court would not have authorized the surveillance warrant without the dossier.

Speaking Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, John Brennan the former CIA director under former President Barack Obama, accused Nunes of playing politics with the release of the memo.

“Devin Nunes, over the past several months, all the way back to the spring of last year I think has engaged in these tactics, purely to defend, makes excuses and try to protect Mr. Trump,” Brennan said.

Brennan also downplayed the amount of influence the dossier had among those in intelligence circles.

“It did not play any role whatsoever in the intelligence community assessments that was done that was presented to then President Obama and then President-elect Trump.”

Democrats have raised concerns that the President will use the release of the Nunes memo as grounds to terminate Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is supervising the Mueller investigation, or to order the firing Mueller.

Also appearing on Meet the Press was Trump’s former chief of Staff Reince Priebus. He pushed back on an explosive report first made in the New York Times last month, that Trump ordered the firing Mueller in June of 2017, but backed down after the White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit over the directive.

“I never felt, of all the things that we went through in the West Wing, I never felt that the president was going to fire the special counsel,” said Priebus, who left the administration in July 2017.

On Saturday evening, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. released a six-page rebuttal memo to the Nunes document and circulated it to his colleagues and to the media, including NPR. Nadler, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, accuses the Nunes memo of being “deliberately misleading and deeply wrong on the law.”

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Hunter Knocked Unconscious By Falling, Dead Goose Shot By His Hunting Party

Canadian geese are pictured on March 21, 2013 in Eltville, Germany. A dead Canada goose injured Robert Meilhammer in Crapo, Md., when it was shot and fell from the sky.

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Frank Rumpenhorst/AFP/Getty Images

Some might chalk it up to bad luck; others, to karma.

Robert Meilhammer, 51, of Crapo, Md., was struck in the head Thursday by a dead Canada goose that plunged from the sky after a fellow waterfowl hunter fired a blind shot on a flock overhead. Meilhammer was in the midst of a hunting party with three friends in Easton, Md.

The goose fell about 90 feet, knocking the hunter out instantly and causing head and facial injuries. When Meilhammer came to, he was coherent but “hazy,” according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Natural Resources police officers and EMS responders transported Meilhammer via ambulance to the Easton Airport, where he was airlifted to the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Talbot County EMS responders called his head injury “severe.” The dead bird also knocked out two of Meilhammer’s teeth.

Thousands of Canada geese in the United States migrate south each year, filling the sky with long, V-formations. Adult Canada geese weigh about 12 to 14 pounds, and can have a wing span reaching nearly 6 feet. The “honkers,” as the bird are called for their noisy calls, are found in every contiguous U.S. state.

Meilhammer is in stable condition.

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Egyptian Archaeologists Unearth A 4,400-Year-Old Tomb

A woman takes a photo inside the tomb of an Old Kingdom priestess that was unveiled on Saturday after being discovered during excavation work in Giza’s western cemetery by a team of Egyptian archaeologists.

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Egyptian archaeologists unearthed a well-preserved 4,400-year-old tomb from Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty, a prosperous era where pharaohs ruled, palaces were erected and pyramids were built.

Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany said that the tomb belonged to Hetpet, a priestess to the goddess of fertility Hathor. Female priests were not common in ancient Egypt. Hathor, who also represented music and dance, had a number of them in her priesthood, reports National Geographic.

The tomb was discovered in Giza’s western cemetery by a team of Egyptian archaeologists at the helm of Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

al-Enany told reporters during a press conference on Saturday that the cemetery where the tomb was found is home to the graves of other official figures from the Old Kingdom’s Fifth Dynasty, which spanned from 2465 BC to 2323 BC.

Hetpet’s name and various titles are engraved inside the tomb, alongside paintings and other artifacts including a purification basin.

“The tomb is in very good condition,” Waziri told the Agence France-Presse. “There are colored depictions of traditional scenes: animals grazing, fishing, bird-catching, offerings, sacrifice, soldiers and fruit-gathering.”

The paintings — which Waziri says are unusual — show scenes of music and dance. One scene features two monkeys eating fruit and dancing in front of an orchestra.

GIZA – Well-preserved and rare wall paintings inside the tomb of an Old Kingdom priestess that was unveiled on February 3, 2018. (Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images)

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Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images

“Such scenes are rare … And have only been found previously in the tomb of Ka-Iber, where a painting shows a monkey dancing in front of a guitarist, not an orchestra,” Waziri told the AFP.

Since the overthrow of the dictatorial Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the country’s once-booming tourism industry has sharply declined.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities has made several discoveries throughout Egypt since the beginning of 2017. The ministry hopes that its recent string of archaeological progress will entice more tourists to visit Egypt.

“This is a very promising area. We expect to find more,” al-Waziri told reporters at the site.

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Knees, Domestic Violence And CTE: Why You Stopped Watching Football

Quarterback Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles drops back to pass against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 10 in Los Angeles.

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A lot of people watch the Super Bowl every year.

You know that. Last year about 111 million people watched. The game three years ago became the most-viewed ever, with 114 million people watching.

But football ratings overall have dropped in the past couple years. Numbers for the 2017 season were down 9.7 percent, continuing a decline from the year before.

To be clear, the audience for football is still enormous and dwarfs almost everything else on TV.

Football is still dominating, but just a little bit less so.

There are a lot of theories about why the decline is happening — including the distraction of the 2016 presidential campaign and President Trump’s disparaging tweets, games being too long to keep the attention of younger viewers, or a lack of star players on the field.

We asked Weekend Edition listeners to tell us about why they stopped watching recently.

Stephanie Norman from Kansas City, Kan., says she was turned off by NFL players “taking a knee” during the national anthem in recent months to protest police brutality and to protest the president.

“I don’t really care to support it,” she tells NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

“I think to incite a political climate in your stadiums when we’re there to be entertained is just inappropriate.”

Norman says the NFL needs to be clear about exactly why the national anthem is played at games.

“I think if you’re playing it to salute the troops, it’s the wrong time to be … grandstanding basically,” she says.

“My grandfather died during World War II. I saw the pain and suffering that inflicted upon my family. It’s the least we could do, just one time, to celebrate American victory and our heroes.

“Use your social media, use your voice, get a protest going another time. March on D.C. Wear a color of tie to the NFL banquet — I don’t care what you do. But I think the NFL needs to make a stand and say why they’re playing it, what they expect their players to do, and if you’re getting paid to do your job, do your job.”

Rodrigo Vijalva of Fort Wright, Ky., doesn’t think the players are grandstanding, so much as using their star status to call attention to something.

“They’re in a position where they are more heard than the people that they’re fighting for,” he says. “It’s a lot easier if you’re a professional player to get attention to an issue” than what “the average person on the street” is able to do.

Fred McFarland of Pensacola, Fla. says he actually started watching football after a long hiatus — to support the protesters.

Fred McFarland is a veteran, but he says he supports the rights of players to protest.

Courtesy of Fred McFarland

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Courtesy of Fred McFarland

“Being a veteran, the fact that these gentlemen were using the rights that I defended gave me a reason to support them and start watching football again,” he says.

“I understand their viewpoint. They have a right to say how they feel under the First Amendment, just like Colin Kaepernick has the right to take a knee when he’s at a game.”

He says that when people thank him for his service, he tells them to “use your rights, get involved in local government, register to vote, make sure you vote,” because “those are the thank yous that I personally want.”

McFarland says he wants to show support because those players are “doing exactly what I’ve asked others to do” on “their stage.” Plus, he’s “not a guy that’s going to buy a jersey or anything like that.”

Another factor listeners talked about: worries about injuries and brain damage in players.

Researchers have long been studying a possible link between the type of hits to the head that football players receive and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

“I feel like I can’t watch football with a clean conscience,” listener Obie Pressman tells NPR.

Rodrigo Vijalva says he used to watch and enjoy “a nice hit, a good block or a good tackle.” But after hearing about the possible brain damage those head hits could be causing, “as opposed to enjoying it, I would just find myself thinking: Well, I hope the guy gets up.”

Rodrigo Vijalva doesn’t want his son to play football and is worried that watching games with him would be hypocritical.

Courtesy of Rodrigo Vijalva

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Courtesy of Rodrigo Vijalva

He has an 8-year-old daughter and a 16-month-old son now.

“I’m definitely concerned about my son maybe wanting to grow up and play, with football being so prevalent in culture, in schools,” he says. “Personally, I would not want him to play, so it seems hypocritical to be watching it with him and then kind of glorifying these things.”

Vijalva is also worried about players getting in “legal trouble” for things like physically abusing their partners or drunk driving, “and then teams kind of turning a blind eye if the player was good enough.”

Listener Annie Callahan told NPR, “After it came out about abuse of their spouses or girlfriends, I actually refuse to watch the NFL anymore because I really don’t think they take the safety of women seriously.”

In 2014, a video surfaced showing Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee Janay Palmer. Other incidents involving domestic violence and NFL players have made the news since then.

“Domestic violence and the NFL have been unhappily coupled more than a few times in recent years,” NPR’s Karen Grigsby Bates explained in 2016.

Despite their reservations, Vijalva and McFarland say they’re watching the game at home Sunday night.

As for Norman? “I was for the Vikings, so I’m out of it at this point,” she says. “But Tom Brady has had an amazing career and he’s done remarkable things. And I can only hope that he continues to break records.”

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