Sept. 24 (UPI) — Detroit singer Rico Lavelle sang the national anthem Sunday at Ford Field, before taking a knee and raising his fist to the crowd.
Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions players and coaches stood with locked arms on the sideline before the contest. Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Lions owner Martha Ford also participated in the pregame festivities.
Many other high-profile personalities from franchises around the league also protested during the national anthem Sunday. Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Kahn was the first owner to stand with his arms linked with his players on Sunday morning before his team’s 44-7 win against the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium in London.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross also stood down on the field with his players during the anthem before his team played the New York Jets Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium in New York.
Ford issued a statement Sunday before the game.
“Our game has long provided a powerful platform for dialogue and positive change in many communities throughout our nation,” Ford said in the statement.
“Thanks primarily to our players, the NFL also has been a unifying force in our country and impactful change has and hopefully will continue to be the result of peaceful expression, done so in order to highlight social injustices of all kind.
“Negative and disrespectful comments suggesting otherwise are contrary to the founding principles of our country, and we do not support those comments or opinions.”
Blank issued his statement on Saturday night.
“We are at our very best when we are working together, building unity and including everyone’s voice in a constructive dialogue,” Blank said. “Creating division or demonizing viewpoints that are different than our own accomplishes nothing positive and undermines our collective ability to achieve the ideals of our democracy. The NFL has historically been a strong catalyst for positive change and I’m proud of the way our players, coaches and staff use that platform to give back to our community and strive to be good citizens making a positive impact on this and future generations.”
The protests and statements come after President Donald Trump’s recent comments regarding the NFL and its players. Mr. Trump said that NFL owners should fire players who choose to protest during the national anthem.
“We’re proud of our country. We respect our flag,” Trump said Friday at a rally in Alabama. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a [expletive] off the field right now’? He’s fired! He’s fired!”
The Falcons led the Lions 20-13 at the half Sunday in Detroit.