"If Trump thought he could divide the NFL, he was wrong," NFL exec says
Following 1 p.m. kickoffs, Trump tweets he approves of players locking arms
Rather than taking a knee, most NFL players opted for a show of unity Sunday, locking arms ahead of their games amid criticism from President Trump who slammed players opting to protest during the national anthem.
Still, plenty opted to kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” with the Baltimore Ravens’ Terrell Suggs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Mike Evans among the stars following the lead of former pro quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who pioneered the anthem protests last year over what he was said was social and racial injustice.
Kaepernick, who has sat and knelt during the anthem, has said he refused to honor a song or “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He also referenced the shootings of black men by police as one of reasons for his stance. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” he told NFL Media. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Ahead of a Sunday morning game in London and afternoon games, players from several teams, including the New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins, took knees during the anthem. With the exception of one player, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t even take the field until the anthem was over. The Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans also chose not to take the field for the national anthem.
In Sunday morning tweets, Trump renewed his criticism of the protests, slamming the league’s ratings and saying players should be fired or suspended for such protests. On Saturday, he called for NFL owners to fire any “son of a bitch” who “disrespects our flag.”
“What you just saw was a variety of responses with the theme of unity,” an NFL front office source told CNN. “All across the league, owners, coaches and players came together to decide what was best for them.”
The source added, “If Trump thought he could divide the NFL, he was wrong.”
Following Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoffs, Trump tweeted that he approved of players locking arms, saying it represented “great solidarity” for the country.
Here’s who’s been taking a stand Sunday:
Washington Redskins vs. Oakland Raiders
Redskins players, including quarterback Kirk Cousins and defensive back Josh Norman, and owner Dan Snyder stood arm-in-arm. Several Redskins also knelt.
Across FedEx Field, a number of Raiders sat with their arms locked before the prime time game.
“Football has always served as the great unifier, bringing people together to celebrate the values of courage, commitment and achievement,” the Redskins said.
NBC’s Michele Tafoya said the Raiders head coach, Jack Del Rio, told her the team wanted to stay in the locker room during the anthem but couldn’t. The team would have forfeited the coin toss and be in danger of a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, she said.
Tafoya said 12-year veteran Vernon Davis, a tight end with the Redskins, said he would visit the White House if he was invited, and he would tell the President that “we love the flag. Let’s focus on solutions rather than attack those protesting.”
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Green Bay Packers
Packers starting quarterback Aaron Rogers and Bengals starting quarterback Andy Dalton were among the players on both teams who stood and locked their arms on their sidelines. Three Packers players also sat during the national anthem.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers
A number of Chargers players stood with their arms interlocked and others sat. Some Chiefs players knelt, including linebacker Justin Houston who knelt towards the players bench
“I believe in honoring the American flag and supporting all of those who sacrifices protect the many freedoms we have in this country, including the right to have differences of opinion,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Tennessee Titans
The Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans remained in their locker rooms during the national anthem.
“The players jointly decided this was the best course of action. Our commitment to the military and our community is resolute and the absence of our team for the national anthem shouldn’t be misconstrued as unpatriotic,” the Titans organization said in a statement.
The Seahawks said the team made the decision together.
“We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms,” the Seahawks players said in the statement.
Titans cheerleaders were seen standing on the sidelines with hands over their hearts, like many fans in the stands.
Meghan Linsey, a Nashville singer and runner-up on NBC’s The Voice,” sang the national anthem. On the last note, Linsey and her guitarist took a knee.
Cleveland Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts
Several Browns players locked arms. Some stood, while others knelt on the sideline. Colts players were also locked arm-in-arm while they stood or took a knee.
New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
Several Saints players sat on the bench or knelt while others stood. Panthers starting quarterback Cam Newton and his teammates stood during the anthem.
There was swift reaction to the actions of some Saints players. A restaurant in Chalmette, Louisiana, near New Orleans, refused to show the Saints game on television.