National Anthem Protests Take Place Across NFL in Wake of Trump Call for Boycott
Seahawks, Titans, Steelers don't take the field, other players take a knee during National Anthem.
NFL players and coaches went on offense amid President Trump’s calls to boycott the league over the increasing number of athletes kneeling in protest during the National Anthem.
On the first Sunday of football games following the president’s three-day blitz demanding that players who took a knee during the “Star-Spangled Banner” to protest racial inequality in the country be fired or suspended, teams across the league made a statement of their own.
Trump began his campaign on the issue Friday night at a rally in Alabama. “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!’” he told the crowd. He continued tweeting on the issue throughout the weekend and called for a boycott:
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
The message kicked off in the morning during the Anthem before Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars game in London. Jaguars owner Shad Khan, one of seven owners who donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, stood on the sideline during the anthem linking arms with several of his players.
Later in the day at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the entire Steelers squad and coaching staff stayed off the field entirely — except for left tackle and Army vet Alejandro Villaneuva, who cut a solitary figure standing near the tunnel, hand over heart. Both the Tennessee Titans and the Seahawks also stayed off the field for the anthem for their afternoon game in Seattle.
In every other game during the course of the day, at least several players kneeled or stood together in a league-wide message of unity. It was by far the largest demonstration of protest since then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the gesture last season.
One glaring exception was the New York Jets: None of the team’s players took a knee. Owner Woody Johnson is a friend and supporter of Trump, who appointed him as ambassador to England.
It’s also unclear if the NFL’s strategy of standing together and linking arms translated the way it was intended. “Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!,” Trump tweeted Sunday.
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