MINNEAPOLIS -- Detroit Lions owner Martha Ford asked her team during a meeting this week not to kneel during the national anthem, saying that if they found a different way to protest, she would donate money and her name to community issues that the Lions players are concerned about, the Detroit Free Press is reporting.
Only two Lions players knelt during the national anthem on Sunday -- linebackers Steve Longa and Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Longa is grieving the death of his father, Etienne, who was killed this week when he was hit by a SUV in Pennsylvania. Defensive end Cornelius Washington told the Free Press "there were probably alternate reasons" both players knelt during the anthem.
"As a team, we came together, talked to Mrs. Ford, the owners, and we understand the issues for the most part, generally," running back Ameer Abdullah told the Free Press. "Me personally, I definitely want to be an aid in growing the social awareness in this country, that it is a race problem in this country.
"We do dance around the topic a lot, and Mrs. Ford has come forward and said that as long as we compromise as a team and unify and make a unified demonstration, she'll back us financially. So I'm definitely going to hold her to her word."
Earlier this week, Lions defensive tackle Akeem Spence tweeted that his father had lost a contracting job in Florida because he had knelt for the anthem against Atlanta.
In exchange for not kneeling during the anthem, Ford told the players this week she will help back the causes they choose. Abdullah and Washington both stood during the anthem and linked arms with their teammates.
"She just asked us not to take the knee and basically told us -- not basically, she told us she would back and support financially as well as put her name on whatever issues that we wanted to try to attack," Washington told the Free Press. "But as far as the kneeling, she just I guess felt like there was better ways to get the point across. And at this point, people know what we're kneeling for so now trying to take that next step in the plan of action to foster change is, that's the next part, and that's the part she's willing to get behind."
Both players told the Free Press they have not made any decisions on how they would use whatever funds Ford is willing to give them, but they said they plan to be active in trying to bring real change to their communities.
Ford was in attendance at the Lions' 14-7 win over Minnesota on Sunday -- as she been in attendance for almost every game since she took ownership of the team following her husband's death in 2014.