NFL players across the league knelt, locked arms and even refused to come out of the locker room during the national anthem Sunday. They were joined by coaches and even owners.
It is believed to be in response to President Donald Trump’s comments and tweets this week on protests during the anthem.
It started early Sunday morning in London, as more than a dozen Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars players knelt during the U.S. national anthem at Wembley Stadium. The kneeling players then stood for the singing of the U.K. national anthem.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone and Jaguars owner Shad Khan stood with the players during the anthem.
Trump on Friday night criticized NFL players who lodge protests during the national anthem.
Speaking at a political rally in Huntsville, Alabama, Trump said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!”
There was scattered booing by fans in all stadiums as protests were made Sunday.
In Chicago, as the anthem began in Soldier Field, several Pittsburgh Steelers coaches were on the sideline, including Mike Tomlin, while the players were not present as they stayed in the locker room.
The Steelers’ players took the field within a few seconds of the anthem’s conclusion, just after the fireworks launch, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger one of the first out of the tunnel. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, was seen on the CBS broadcast at the edge of the tunnel during the anthem, hand over heart.
NFL owners were among those across the league who responded this weekend to President Trump’s comments and tweets.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Sunday became the first NFL owner who made a donation to Trump’s campaign to speak out.
“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday,” Kraft said. “I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger.”
During the playing of the national anthem prior to the Patriots’ game against the Houston Texans, Tom Brady stood and locked arms while 20 or so of his teammates kneeled. All of the Texans stood and locked arms.
Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, executives and players locked arms with servicemen and women and police officers during the playing of the anthem, and safety Malcolm Jenkins — who has been demonstrating for social justice since Week 2 of last season — continued to raise his first above his head.
Defensive end Chris Long has placed an arm around Jenkins as a sign of support since the events in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia in August. He was joined by several teammates surrounding Jenkins this week. Wide receivers Torrey Smith and Marcus Johnson also raised their fist.
Blank said he stood on the sideline not only to show support for the players and coaches, but also to back his public statement denouncing President Trump’s criticism of players protesting during the anthem.
In Detroit, anthem singer Rico Lavelle, at the conclusion of the song, took a knee and raised his fist.
Detroit Lions owner Martha Ford and her three daughters, who are usually long gone from the field by the time player introductions begin, remained on the sideline as Detroit’s team was introduced and stood next to Jim Caldwell with linked arms. Fans booed the Lions as they protested, which included eight players linking arms while kneeling.
The crowd in Indianapolis also booed loudly as the Colts locked arms and some knelt. About 20 Cleveland Browns players — all African-American — knelt during the anthem. Browns running back Duke Johnson, in a group standing behind those who knelt — apparently in support — waved the crowd on.
The entire Buffalo Bills sideline took the unusual step of walking about 10 yards toward the middle of the field for the national anthem. Several players then kneeled for the national anthem. More than 30 players from the Denver Broncos knelt during the anthem, including members of the practice squad.
Every New York Jets player, coach and staff member linked arms during the national anthem. Acting owner Christopher Johnson, the younger brother of owner Woody Johnson, was among them. The Jets have yet to comment publicly on Trump’s remarks.
No Saints had sat or knelt during the anthem before — though they did organize a team-wide display of unity and hand-holding with the rival Falcons after the anthem on a Monday Night Football game last year.
In addition, the NFL will re-air a 60-second spot — called “Inside These Lines” — during Sunday Night Football that also appeared during Super Bowl LI. The NFL describes it as a video that “demonstrates the power of football to bring people together.”