The Pittsburgh Steelers will stay in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem today. The team’s decision is intended to show a united front. Other teams are expected to follow suit, though there’s some question about whether NFL rules call for teams to actually be on field during the anthem, or whether the league would enforce the rule.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin revealed the locker room plan to CBS sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl. Watch a clip below.
“We’re not going to play politics,” Tomlin said, adding “We came here to play a football game.” The Steelers play the Bears in Chicago at 1 pm ET.
President Donald Trump, turning attention from threats in North Korea, and disasters in Mexico, Florida and Texas, began his Sunday with football. Suggesting a boycott – he didn’t use that word – against what is, in the end, a massively lucrative American industry, Trump tweeted, “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place. Fire or suspend!”
Trump’s second Sunday tweet noted that NFL attendance and ratings are “WAY DOWN” in part because of “boring games” but also because “many stay away because they love our country.”
With CBS and Fox expected to break their usual broadcast pattern by beginning today’s football coverage with the National Anthem – and the anticipated protests – Trump’s attention should prove a boon to ratings.
The NFL’s response to Trump’s ire – which Deadline covered extensively yesterday – continued this morning when players for the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars kneeled as the American national anthem played during the start of their game at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Even players and coaches not kneeling locked arms to demonstrate unity, as did Jaguars owner Shahid Khan.
Both teams tweeted their support for the players, with the Jaguars sending out a one-word tweet “Unity” and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti posting the following statement: “We recognize our players’ influence. We respect their demonstration and support them 100 percent. All voices need to be heard. That’s democracy in its highest form.”
Also today, CNN reported that the NFL will re-air in primetime tonight a unity-themed ad in response to the weekend’s events. The commercial, called “Inside These Lines,” is narrated by Forest Whitaker and was originally aired during this year’s Super Bowl.
Here are today’s tweets – so far – from the president and the teams: