Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, a practicing Muslim, declined to talk in depth about President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration during Media Day at the Super Bowl in Houston.
Sanu, 27, is one of only a few Muslims in the NFL and the only Muslim player in the Super Bowl.
“It’s a very tough situation,” Sanu said about the ban, according to Sports Illustrated. “I just pray that us as a country and a world can be united. It’s really hard for me to talk about this right now. It would take a lot of time. I would really like to just focus on the game and just talk about football.”
“I’m not really here to talk about that. I’m here to focus on the game. At another time, maybe. But not right now,” Sanu said. “I’m not really here to talk about my religious beliefs. I’m here to play football.”
Sanu was born in New Jersey. His parents are from Sierra Leone, not one of the seven Muslim-majority countries included in the travel ban, and he spent time living there as a child. His mother was traveling from the African nation to Houston for the Super Bowl.
He said he is concerned about his mother.
“I’m always concerned. When somebody in your family is traveling a long distance like that, you’re always concerned something may go wrong. You never know,” he said. “It is what it is. You just got to hope for the best. I can’t really think about that right now. I want to focus on the game and give all I can to my teammates.”
Sanu was asked about his faith and the ban several times, according to SI.
“Of course I know. Obviously, my name’s 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. “If you guys are going to continue to ask me about religious beliefs, I’m going to tell you the same thing. … I respect all you guys. I have tremendous love for all you guys, but I’m here to talk about football.”
Sanu’s head coach, Dan Quinn, was also asked about the ban and how it has impacted Sanu:
“It’s definitely one that deserves our time and attention and Mo and I did have a talk about it,” Quinn told reporters. “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.”
DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, also addressed the ban.
“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 told reporters.
While Sanu shied away from talking specifically about the ban during the run-up to the Super Bowl, his fiancee, Lauren Hettinger, tweeted about the ban last month.
Sanu and Hettinger, an Ohio native and devout Christian, are engaged to be married and have a young son together, Mohamed Jr.