NFL players, coaches, owners lock arms, kneel during national anthem
NFL players across the league knelt, locked arms, raised their fists and even refused to come out of the locker room during the national anthem Sunday. They were joined by coaches and even owners.
It comes in the wake of President Donald Trump's recent comments and tweets 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!"
On Sunday, Trump tweeted he was pleased to see so many NFL players locking arms while also decrying those who knelt. He later tweeted the NFL needed to change its policy concerning anthem protests.
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, however, said it was Trump's comments that incited some players to kneel, including himself.
"Personally, I think the comments made about my brothers who decided to protest and kneel is kind of what made us no longer be silent," Suggs said. "We stand with our brothers. They have the right to protest. We knelt with them today. Non-violent protest is as American as it gets. We knelt with them today and let them know we are a unified front. There is no dividing us. I guess we're all sons of b----es."
Added teammate Mike Wallace: "Sometimes when you feel things go to far, you have to make a statement. I felt strongly about it. ... After yesterday, it went too far. I just felt strongly about it today. So I did what I did. I didn't need anybody to tell me yes, no, whatever. That was just the way I felt."
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 coach 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.
"We showed we have power as people and that's what we were doing today. I think that it was super impressive," Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett said after the Seahawks' 33-27 loss.
An NFL official told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that no fines are being considered for those players who stayed in the locker room during the anthem.
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 anthem prior to the Patriots' game against the Houston Texans, Tom Brady stood and locked arms while 20 or so of his teammates knelt. All of the Texans stood and locked arms.
No Saints players had sat or knelt during the anthem before -- though they did organize a teamwide display of unity and hand-holding with the rival Falcons after the anthem on a Monday Night Football game last year.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees was among those standing for the anthem. After the game, he passionately explained why he'd continue to do so.
"I will always feel that, if you are an American, that the national anthem is the opportunity for us all to stand up together, to be unified, and to show respect for our country," Brees said. "To show respect for what it stands for, the birth of our nation. There will always be issues with our country, there will always be things we're battling. And we should always strive to make those things better. But if the protests become that we're going to sit down, or kneel, or not show the respect to the flag of the United States of America and everything that it symbolizes, everything it stands for, and everything our country has been through to get to this point... I do not agree with that.
"I feel like that is a unifying thing. The national anthem and standing for the national anthem, and looking at the flag with a hand over the heart is a unifying thing that should bring us all together. And say, 'You know what? We know things are not where they should be, but we're going to work and strive to make things better.' To bring equality to all people -- men, women, no matter your race, creed, religion, it doesn't matter. Equality for all. But if you're an American, then I will always believe that we should be standing, showing respect for our flag, with our hand over our heart."
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 fists.
Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett, who had stood with his fist raised for the past two games, instead sat on the bench during the anthem. He was joined by teammates Lance Kendricks and Kevin King as other Packers players linked arms in two ground on their sideline.
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 took a knee and raised his fist at the conclusion of the song.
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 knelt 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 anthem. Acting owner Christopher Johnson, the younger brother of owner Woody Johnson, was among them.
"I have tremendous respect for our flag and the men and women who defend it," said a statement by Chargers owner Dean Spanos, who stood with players, coaches and GM Tom Telesco with locked arms. "Ours is the greatest nation in the world, one in which people are able to speak freely and stand up publicly for their beliefs. Our players, as do all Americans, have every right to speak their mind and from their heart. It was an honor to join them on the field today."
The Carolina Panthers stood for the anthem, as they have since the season began. Julius Peppers was not on the field, however, and said after the game that he made the choice to do so because he felt it was the appropriate thing to do.
"I want to get one thing clear," Peppers said. "This wasn't about disrespecting the military, the flag, police, first responders, none of that. It was about me making a decision as a man on my own two feet, and I wasn't going to ask somebody else to do anything with me.
"I just thought it was appropriate to stay in because we know what went on this week with the comments that were made by the president. I felt like he attacked our brothers, my brothers in the league, so I felt that it was appropriate to stand up with them and stay in the locker room."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, meanwhile, said he believes that all players should continue to stand.
"We need to look at the flag and listen to the national anthem," Rivera said. "We need to think it and vision it for an America that we believe in, that is free from injustice, free from bigotry and free from prejudice. Then when you guys ask me, we tell you that ... we believe in America, that we support our military, we support our first responders and we most certainly do not believe in racism and bigotry and we want to see that out of this country."
The Cincinnati Bengals also continued to stand for the anthem -- most with their arms linked. A few stood with their hands on their hearts. Nobody on the Bengals has kneeled during the national anthem since the protests began last year.
"Football and politics don't mix easily," said a statement issued by the Bengals prior to the game. "Fans come to NFL games to watch great competition on the playing field and that's where our focus should be."
Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder linked arms with corners Bashaud Breeland and Josh Norman during the national anthem before the Sunday night game against the Oakland Raiders. The entire team linked arms, but seven players opted to take a knee: receivers Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Brian Quick, tight end Niles Paul and Jordan Reed and linebackers Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said the team wanted to stay in the locker room during the anthem but because of the timing of prime-time games, they could not because they would have missed the coin toss and also have been penalized. Most of the Raiders remained seated or took a knee during the anthem, including the entire offensive line, which is comprised of all minority players and is the lone all-black starting unit in the NFL, and the defensive line. Some stood with interlocked arms, as did Del Rio, and quarterback Derek Carr appeared to pray while looking skyward and standing.
In addition, the NFL re-aired a 60-second spot -- called "Inside These Lines" -- during the Sunday night game that also appeared during Super Bowl LI. The NFL describes it as a video that "demonstrates the power of football to bring people together."