Three Dolphin players kneel
Saints players stand for National Anthem
There was defiance again, but this time it wasn’t as raw.
Once more, all eyes were on the sidelines for the second Sunday in the NFL following US President Donald Trump’s remarks about players protesting during the US National Anthem.
In the latest round of matches 52 players chose to sit or kneel during the Anthem – 30 of them from the San Francisco 49ers – compared to the 180 who took the knee last week.
At London’s Wembley Stadium, three Miami Dolphins players – Kenny Stills, Julius Thomas and Michael Thomas – knelt, while the New Orleans Saints’ squad knelt and locked arms during the coin toss before standing for the anthem.
On the eve of the 14 Sunday matches, President Trump had urged all NFL players to stand for the National Anthem.
“Very important that NFL players STAND tomorrow, and always, for the playing of our National Anthem,” Trump posted. “Respect our Flag and our Country!”
‘Everybody vs. Trump’
However, the show of defiance continued – in London and on football fields in the US.
Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars knelt before “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played – sections of fans booed both teams – while two members of the Detroit Lions and six members of the Buffalo Bills knelt during the anthem.
Oakland Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch wore a t-shirt with “Everybody vs. Trump” printed on the front as he entered the Sports Authority Field and, as he did last week, sat during the anthem while his teammates, who mostly knelt or sat last week, stood.
Ravens’ opponents, the Denver Broncos, all stood but Brandon Marshall, who joined Colin Kaepernick in kneeling last season, raised a fist, as did Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod of the Philadelphia Eagles, reminiscent to John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
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‘Kaepernick’s reason has got lost’
Lynch’s t-shirt highlighted the divisive nature of Trump’s comments.
His speech in Alabama, on September 27, which called on NFL owners to fire players for taking a knee during the anthem, sparked an unprecedented wave of protest in the country’s most popular sports league as more than 200 NFL players knelt, sat or prayed during the anthem last Sunday.
According to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS last week, the majority of Americans agreed that Trump did the wrong thing by criticizing players, but people were sharply divided over whether NFL stars were doing the right thing.
Feelings were certainly mixed as fans made their way to Wembley for a match which ended in a dominant 20-0 win for the Saints over the Dolphins.
Lee Collins, from Georgia, said the meaning of the protests – which began last year when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” in protest of racial and social injustice – had been lost.
“I think the initial reason for kneeling, I understand that,” the 35-year-old Collins told CNN Sport.
“But the NFL as a whole, someone’s ego got hurt and Kaepernick’s reason has got lost. I believe in why Kaepernick is doing it but not why the NFL is doing it.”
READ: ‘I think they’re afraid of their players’
‘It’s about the injustices happening to my people’
After the match, Saints running back Adrian Peterson said those who did not understand the reasons for taking the knee were “part of the problem.”
“If fans can listen to the words that are coming out of my mouth, to understand that it’s not about disrespecting our military, it’s about the injustice that’s happening to my people,” he told CNN.
“People are being killed by officers and nobody is paying the cost for those actions. No one. If we stand for something then we need to stand for liberty and justice for all and that’s not happening right now in the US.
“So if people can get past the disrespect they feel is going towards the military and really see and feel and talk about the main issue, then I feel like some type of change can come but until then I feel like it’s undermining the true cause.
“We all have family members who have served in the military, they would have taken the knee if they had seen where our country was – liberty and justice for all, that’s what they fought for, and liberty and justice for all is not being applied in the US, that’s what people need to be upset about, they need to see that justice is not being applied to people of color and if you can’t see that, you are part of the problem.”
The highest-paid NFL players in 2017
Asked about his team’s pre-game decision to kneel before the anthem and then stand, Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters he was “proud of the leadership on the team.”
He added: “We just felt like they were going to meet and spend some time on it and come up with a plan, and we were going to be really unified, and I thought it went real well.”