LONDON (WATE/AP) — During the start of Sunday’s first NFL game, about a dozen players from the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before the start of the teams’ game at Wembley Stadium.
Players included Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. Other players on one knee during the performance included Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, wide receiver Mike Wallace and safety Lardarius Webb as well as Jaguars linebacker Dante Fowler, defensive tackle Calais Campbell, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
President Donald Trump had a suggestion on Saturday for National Football League owners whose players decide to take a knee during the national anthem: fire them. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement last year when he played for the San Francisco 49ers, refusing to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest the treatment of black people by police. Kaepernick became a free agent and has not been signed by a new team for this season.
Without naming Kaepernick, Trump aimed a Friday talk at a Huntsville, Alabama, rally at those players who have knelt for 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 bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,’” he said to loud applause.
Again in a Sunday morning tweet, Trump urged his supporters to take action: “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”
The NFL’s players and owners have united in a manner unseen in years in the nation’s most popular professional sports league, sounding a resolute chord in decrying President Donald Trump’s remarks about players kneeling during the national anthem.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who’s been a strong supporter of the president, expressed “deep disappointment” with Trump on Sunday and said politicians could learn much from the unifying spirit of a competitive enterprise like professional football that succeeds from teamwork.
“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President …,” Kraft said in a statement. “Our players are intelligent, thoughtful, and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin followed up Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” defending Trump, saying the NFL has many rules governing what players can and cannot do.
“I think what the president is saying is that the owners should have a rule that players should have to stand in respect for the national anthem,” Mnuchin said. “They can do free speech on their own time.”
Trump’s remarks provoked team owners and the NFL to stridently defend the sport and its players.
Steelers won’t participate in anthem
Instead of kneeling, the Pittsburgh Stealers didn’t take place in the national anthem.
Head coach Mike Tomlin told CBS sports that the team will remain in its locker room in Chicago instead of coming onto the field for the anthem. He said he wants to keep the team from getting into a political argument.
“We’re not going to play politics. We’re football players, we’re football coaches. We’re not participating in the anthem today. Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something he shouldn’t be separated from his teammates who chooses not to. So we’re not participating today. That’s our decision.”