An “unprecedented” number of NFL players chose to protest President Trump’s suggestion that owners fire players who kneel during the national anthem on Sunday, the Associated Press reported.
Some players kneeled, some stood together with their arms interlocked. Others didn’t even come out onto the field until the anthem was over.
During Sunday’s early game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens in London, a large number of players from both teams kneeled or stood together with their arms locked as the anthem played, the Associated Press reported.
“Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, which diversity coming in many forms — race, faith, our views and our goals,” Jaguar’s owner Shad Khan said on Twitter. “We have a lot of work to do, and we can do it, but the comments by the President make it harder.”
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Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told CBS that the Steelers did not participate in the national anthem Sunday so they could “remove ourselves from the circumstances.” The team instead remained in the locker room while the national anthem played.
“If you feel the need to do anything, I’m going to be supportive of that,” Tomlin told CBS. “As Americans, you have that right...We’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda...We’re football players, we’re football coaches...we shouldn’t have to choose (sides).”
Some Chicago Bears players stood with their armed interlocked or kneeled Sunday during them anthem, as did the Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets players.
“What makes this the greatest country in the world are the liberties it was founded upon and the freedom to express oneself in a respectful and peaceful manner,” Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey said in a statement Sunday. “Through important dialogue with our players and team, this divisive political situation has unified our franchise for the present and the future.”
More than 10 players on the New England Patriots took a knee during the anthem. Fans booed and chanted “stand up,” the Washington Post reported.
Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon, saying if players wanted to make millions of dollars in the NFL or other leagues, they shouldn’t be allowed to disrespect the flag, and should have to stand for the national anthem.
“If not, YOU’RE FIRED,” Trump tweeted. “Find something else to do!”
The national debate was sparked last season when free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the anthem while he played for the San Francisco 49ers, AP reported.
Speaking in Huntsville, Alabama, on Friday, Trump criticized players who refused to stand during the anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” said Trump.
Teresa Kaepernick, Colin’s mother, replied on Twitter later that night: “Guess that makes me a proud b----!”