UPDATE: Like their opponents, the Oakland Raiders, the Washington Redskins made a statement via Twitter in regards to today’s National Anthem protests: “Football has always served as the great unifier, bringing people together to celebrate the values of courage, commitment, and achievement. We are proud of the players, coaches, and fans of the Washington Redskins for all that they have done to improve the lives of others in neighborhoods all across our region.”
“We are also grateful for the sacrifices made by the brave men and women of our armed forces that have provided us the freedom to play football. In that great tradition, the Washington Redskins will work to address divisions and bring unity, civility, and respect to our greater community.”
Members of the Redskins linked arms while nearly all the Raiders kneeled and linked arms to show unity. Originally, the Raiders were planning on staying in the locker room during the National Anthem like the Steelers, Titans and Seahawks did earlier today, but the timing for the primetime game is different. If they would have stayed in the locker room, they would have forfeited the coin toss.
EARLIER: Capping the NFL day was the Sunday night game between the Oakland Raiders and the Washington Redskins, ironically played in Washington at FedEx Field.
Raiders owner Mark Davis issued the following statement to ESPN on Sunday regarding his team’s protest plans:
“About a year ago, before our Tennessee game, I met with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack to ask their permission to have Tommie Smith light the torch for my father before the game in Mexico City. I explained to them that I was asking their permission because I had previously told them that I would prefer that they not protest while in the Raiders uniform. And should they have something to say, once their uniform was off, I might go up there with them.
“Over the last year, though, the streets have gotten hot and there has been a lot of static in the air and recently, fuel has been added to the fire. I can no longer ask our team to not say something while they are in a Raider uniform. The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class. Do it with pride. Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with answers. That’s the challenge in front of us as Americans and human beings.”
A report by NFL Media indicated the Oakland offensive line – tackle Donald Penn, guard Kelechi Osemele, center Rodney Hudson, guard Gabe Jackson and tackle Marshall Newhouse – will either sit or kneel together during the national anthem. They are the only offensive line in the NFL comprised entirely of African-American players.
In Los Angeles, the Kansas City Chiefs had one of the largest contingents of protesters at the league’s smallest stadium.
All-pro kick returner/wide receiver Tyreek Hill sat, joining teammates Marcus Peters (previously the only Chief to protest during the anthem), along with fellow sitters Chris Jones, Cameron Erving, Terrence Smith, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Kenneth Acker, Albert Wilson, Ukeme Eligwe and Kareem and Akeem Hunt.
Defensive linemen Bennie Logan and Roy Miller placed a hand over their heart and a hand on Peters’ shoulder. Outside linebacker Justin Houston prayed on both knees near the bench, while tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Chris Conley kneeled.
For the Los Angeles Chargers, defensive end Melvin Ingram kneeled, with teammates Casey Howard and Adrian Philips raising their arms, hands clasped together. Five Chargers sat on the bench, including Chris McCain, Darius Philon, Brandon Mebane, Damion Square and Tenny Palepoi.
At Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the NFL’s smallest market, the Green Bay Packers’ Martellus Bennett, Kevin King and Lance Kendricks sat during the anthem. The other players and coaches on the team stood with their arms linked. Their opponents, the Cincinnati Bengals, stood with arms linked, but none knelt. Before the game, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had issued an Instagram post showing solidarity with a depiction of several kneeling Packers players.
Earlier in the day, the Seattle Seahawks announced plans to stay in the locker room during the national anthem before their game against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans also stayed indoors.
The Seahawks statement: “As a team, we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms.”
The Titans echoed those remarks: “As a team, we wanted to be unified in our actions today. The players jointly decided this was the best course of action. Our commitment to the military and our community is resolute, and the absence of our team for the national anthem shouldn’t be misconstrued as unpatriotic.”
Anthem singer Meghan Linsey was booed after she knelt upon completing the anthem. Both the Titans and Seahawks were loudly booed by the Tennessee crowd when they then entered the field.
The day after a Twitter war between President Donald Trump and the NFL, the players and owners responded with various shows of solidarity. Many teams had players kneel during the national anthem for the first time, and every game had some form of protest action, some more overt than others.
At the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Eagles players and team owner Jeffrey Lurie locked arms on the sidelines as a large flag was unfurled to cover the playing field. Navy vet Jenerald Wilson was in full uniform singing the national anthem.
Giants players Olivier Vernon, Landon Collins and Damon “Snacks” Harrison all knelt while the anthem was performed. The rest of the Giants players locked arms in solidarity in a line stretching along the sideline. Later in the game, star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. gave a raised fist salute to the crowd after scoring a touchdown.
The NFL champion New England Patriots linked arms on the sidelines during the anthem before their home game in Massachusetts. Quarterback Tom Brady, an admitted friend of Trump, put his hand over his heart while several of his teammates took a knee. Brady had earlier indicated support for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ Instagram post showing kneeling players. Dour Patriots coach Bill Belichick stood with his arms crossed next to Brady during the anthem. A large contingent of Houston Texans players kneeled on the sidelines.
At MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, all of the New York Jets linked arms during the anthem, but no player took a knee. Five Dolphins players were seen kneeling on the sidelines, with the rest of the players linking arms.
CNN reported that the Pittsburgh Steelers were booed by hometown fans as they emerged from their locker room following the national anthem. The team indicated earlier it was staying off the field to focus on football rather than politics. Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, who is also a captain in the U.S. Army, stood by the tunnel entrance with his hand over his heart during the anthem.
The New York Times reported that fans also booed in a number of cities, including what was termed “significant” booing before the Indianapolis Colts game against the Cleveland Browns in Indianapolis.
In Detroit, anthem singer Rico Lavelle sunk to one knee and raised a fist at the conclusion of his performance. That was believed to be a first. Several Detroit Lions players also kneeled.
The protests even spread to other sports. Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios kneeled today before the coin toss at his Laver Cup match in Prague against Roger Federer. The match pits a European team against one from the rest of the world.
Kyrgios has been subjected to racial abuse before, with former Olympian Dawn Fraser once telling him to “go back where their parents came from.”
Some NFL protest were less obvious. Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews planned to indicate his feelings on his cleats. Matthews said he would post “We Are One” and “We All Bleed the Same” on his red, white and blue shoes.
Several Miami Dolphins players wore black “ImWithKap” t-shirts while warming up before their Sunday game with the New York Jets. The t-shirts refer to Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the anthem-kneeling protests last year, but then became a free agent and was seemingly black-balled by the league. He isn’t currently playing.
Anger built on Saturday among players, and the NFL Players Association attempted to coordinate a league-wide response to Trump’s tweets. When that didn’t materialize, players and teams were left to formulate their own response.
Fox Sports correspondent Jay Glazer reported that two teams planned to coordinate encircling the national anthem singer at their game. Several others allegedly will stay in the locker room during the national anthem, breaking tradition.
The NFL day began in London, as multiple players for the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars took a knee during the national anthem. Jaguars players also stood arm-in-arm on the sidelines, with team owner Shahid Khan, a Trump inaugeration donor, linking arms with his players.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Players Association, and various football stars fired back at Trump after the president ripped players who don’t stand up for the national anthem. Goodell called Trump’s comments “divisive.”
At a campaign rally Friday night in Alabama, Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. ‘Out, you’re fired!’ Total disrespect of our heritage, a total disrespect of everything that we stand for.” Trump also mentioned NFL television ratings being down and the increase in penalties related to an effort at greater player protection.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded in kind. “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
The commissioner’s comments were echoed by those of NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, who responded via Twitter on Saturday morning.
“We will never back down,” Smith said in his statement. “We no longer can afford to stick to sports.”
Current and former players, and others, also responded to Trump via Twitter and Instagram. In one of the most surprising examples, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers posted a kneeling photo of his teammates. The post was supported by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who posted an emoji of a bicep to show solidarity. Brady is a well-known conservative and has indicated he is friendly with Trump.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a Trump presidential campaign donor, also hit back, releasing a statement saying he was “deeply disappointed” with Trump’s stance.
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