Sept. 24 (UPI) — Current players, a coach, a hall of famer and a billionaire team owner all participated in a national anthem protest before the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens game in London.
The protest took place Sunday morning at Wembley Stadium.
The owner taking part was billionaire Jacksonville Jaguars boss Shahid Kahn. Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Hall of Famer Ray Lewis also took part.
Similar protests are expected throughout Sunday’s full slate of games following several statements from President Donald Trump regarding NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.
“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, out, he’s fired. He’s fired,’” Trump said at a rally Friday in Huntsville, Ala. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
On Saturday many NFL owners and players and commissioner Roger Goodell offered statements in opposition to the comments from the President.
More owner statements came on Sunday, including more from Kahn after he decided to stand on the sideline, locking arms with his players.
“It was a privilege to stand on the sidelines with the Jacksonville Jaguars today for the playing of the U.S. national anthem at Wembley Stadium,” Kahn said in a statement. “I met with our team captains prior to the game to express my support for them, all NFL players and the league following the divisive and contentious remarks made by President Trump, and was honored to be arm in arm with them, their teammates and our coaches during our anthem.”
“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. 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.”
Kahn contributed $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Edward Glazer also contributed to Trump’s inauguration.
President Trump composed more tweets on Sunday about the NFL and its players.
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast,” Trump tweeted. “Fire or suspend!
“…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.,” Trump wrote.
Kraft, McNair and Kroenke also made statements in response to President Trump’s comments on Sunday.
“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday,” Kraft said in his statement. “I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger. There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics. I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”
While many players are expected to participate in protests Sunday all around the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers will stay in the locker room for the national anthem before their game against the Chicago Bears. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told CBS Sunday
“We’re not participating in the anthem today,” Tomlin told CBS. “Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn’t be separated from his teammate who chooses not to. So we’re not participating today. That’s our decision. We’re gonna be 100 percent. We came here to play a football game. That’s our intentions, and we’re gonna play and play to win.”