A League in Defiance: Protests Against President Trump Spread Throughout the NFL

AP Matt Rourke
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A long list of NFL teams and up to 130 players protested during the playing of the national anthem as the NFL’s Week 3 began, Sunday. The protests came on the heels of President Donald Trump’s criticism of the National Football League for allowing the growing number of protests.

The protests began late Saturday night as the Ravens and Jaguars met in London, England, to play at Wembley Stadium. Over a dozen of the players of both teams took a knee during the playing of the U.S. national anthem, even after they all stood in honor of the British anthem:

Early on Sunday morning, President Trump once again took to Twitter to criticize the NFL saying, “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”

The president revisited the issue a half hour later saying, “NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”

Not long after the president’s tweet, news broke that the Pittsburgh Steelers had announced that they were not going to take the field during the playing of the anthem as they faced the Chicago Bears at the Bears’ Soldier Field — a stadium erected as a memorial to America’s fallen WWI soldiers.

This is how it looked when the Steelers coaching staff took the sidelines:

One Steeler, though, bucked the team’s decision to remain in the locker room. Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, himself a U.S. Army veteran, came out, hand over heart and helmut under his arm, as the anthem played:


The Steelers’ opponents, the Chicago Bears, also joined the protest with some players linking arms:

From there the protests came in hot and heavy as the day’s games progressed.

In Detroit, Rico Lavelle took a knee while singing the ending of the anthem ahead of the Lions’ game against the Atlanta Falcons:

Also in Detroit, eight members of the Lions took a knee during the anthem:

Their opposites on the other side of the field, the Atlanta Falcons, saw only two players take up the protest. It was the first time any Falcons player have taken up Colin Kaepernick’s protests.

Members of the Buffalo Bills also took a knee in protest and running back LeSean McCoy ignored the song entirely and carried on stretching and warming up during the anthem:

The Denver Broncs also joined the protest as they faced the Bills with 32 players taking a knee during the anthem.

Nearly a dozen members of the New Orleans Saints remained seated as the anthem played ahead of their match-up with the Carolina Panthers:

Into the afternoon, the Seattle Seahawks released a statement informing fans that they had decided not to take the field during the anthem saying that they would “not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country:”

As game time arrived, the Seahawks’ opponent, the Tennessee Titans, decided to join the Seahawks by staying in their locker room:

Next to hit the protest was the Green Bay Packers, some of whom remained seated during the anthem.

Other Packer players, both white and black, linked arms.


The Cincinnati Bengals also locked arms during the anthem with Coach Marvin Lewis insisting that the team would not “let divisive words divide them:”

A majority of the Oakland Raiders also remained seated during the anthem ahead of their game with the Washington Redskins:

The Redskins also joined the Raiders with some players kneeling and others linking arms:

Both of New York’s teams, the Jets and the Giants, either linked arms, took a knee, or sat during the playing of the anthem.

In addition, both teams who faced the New Yorkers also protested with the Dolphins locking arms with owner Steve Ross, while the Philadelphia Eagles stood with arms linked during the anthem.

Even the New England Patriots, owned by Trump friend Robert Kraft, took a knee during the anthem.

Owner Kraft also released a statement telling fans how “disappointed” he was in his friend the president.

During their game with the Buccaneers, the Vikings linked arms with GM Rick Spielman, owners Mark Wilf & Zygi Wilf.

Several of the Buccaneers joined the protests by taking a knee.

But Bucs also put out a statement about the protests:

The Arizona Cardinals’ President, Michael Bidwill, also released a statement about the team’s protest:

Twenty players from the Cleveland Browns took a knee as the anthem played.

Across the field, the Indianapolis Colts also saw members linking arms in protest.

While none of the Houston Texans took a knee as the game began, the entire team did stand with arms linked.

During a postgame interview, Dolphins safety, Michael Thomas, criticized President Trump for worrying about the NFL when there is so much more for him to be concerned about.

No doubt this will not be the end of the protests as the 2017 season rolls onward.

In the end, the only teams that did not have any players joining the protest was the Dallas Cowboys and the Carolina Panthers.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.


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