Many football players on the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars locked arms and some took a knee while the American national anthem played before their Sunday game, an apparent rebuke of President Trump’s attacks on the NFL earlier this weekend.
“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?’” Trump said to roaring applause at a Friday night rally in support of Alabama Senate candidate Luther Strange. The president said that if a team owner fired a player for protesting the anthem, he or she would become “the most popular person in the country. Because that is a total disrespect of our heritage.”
Trump was referencing the recent trend — started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — of black football players taking a knee during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice.
His remarks, however, haven’t inhibited such demonstrations. If anything, they’ve encouraged more players to protest and team owners to speak out in their defense. Jeff Zrebiec, who covers the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun and was traveling with the team, described the scene on Sunday:
On the far sideline, most Ravens’ players and coaches locked arms during the national anthem. About 10 Ravens kneeled. A similar scene played out on the near sideline with Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who has been a supporter of President Trump, locking arms with his players.
The Ravens’ owner, Steve Bisciotti, tweeted a statement of support for the players shortly afterward.
Statement from Owner Steve Bisciotti. pic.twitter.com/bdKWJ4UpCy— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 24, 2017
Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who has donated to Trump, told ESPN “it was a privilege” to stand with his players.
“Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms — race, faith, our views and our goals. We have a lot of work to do, and we can do it, but the comments by the President make it harder,” his statement said. “That’s why it was important for us, and personally for me, to show the world that even if we may differ at times, we can and should be united in the effort to become better as people and a nation.”
Other protests are expected later today: The head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers told CBS Sports that his players would remain in the locker room during the national anthem at their Sunday evening game.
- NPR takes a deeper look at the history of racial protest in professional sports
- SBNation is tracking the protests from NFL players in the wake of Trump’s remarks.