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NFL Players Protest in Response to Trump Criticism

Mike McCarn/AP

Mike McCarn/AP

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Following Trump’s comments Friday night during a rally in Alabama, in which he targeted those taking a knee during the anthem, calling them a “son of b****”, and demanded retribution from NFL owners for their disrespect, the NFL united together over the weekend. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement Saturday morning, calling Trump’s comments “divisive”, saying “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.” Following his response, the NFLPA released a statement, saying that it makes “no apologies” for protecting the rights of its members, which include freedom of speech.

In the midst of this, Trump managed to gain attention from the NBA, after rescinding Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry’s invitation to visit the White House a day after Curry told reporters he would rather not accept an invitation, in a move that, as Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said was a, “…break up with us before we could break up with him.” Several NBA players respond to Trump’s comment, with LeBron James taking to Twitter following Trump’s tweet, calling Trump a “bum” and stating “Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up.”

Throughout Saturday, NFL owners released statement after statement, in response to Trump. New York Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch called Trump’s NFL comments “inappropriate”. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a friend of Trump’s, said he was “deeply disappointed by the tone ” of Trump’s remarks at the Friday night rally. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said the country needed “unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness.” San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York called Trump’s remarks “callous and offensive” and “contradictory to what this great country stands for.”

On Saturday night, Oakland Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell, son of a US army veteran, took a knee during the national anthem, becoming the first Major League Baseball player to do so, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He knelt with his hand above his heart as teammate Mark Canha put a hand on Maxwell’s shoulder in a show of support. Maxwell protested again on Sunday and later received a standing ovation in his first at-bat on Monday.

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Elsewhere, legendary musician Stevie Wonder took a knee at a New York music festival Saturday. “Tonight, I’m taking a knee for America; but not just one knee, I’m taking both knees,” he said on stage before his performance at the Global Citizen Festival. “Both knees in prayer for our planet, our future, our leaders of the world and our globe. Amen.” spoke about interrupting hate, bigotry and condemning sexism.”

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All throughout Saturday night and into Sunday morning, Trump once again took to Twitter in complaint, turning to fans this time, calling for them to “…refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country…”

Sunday morning brought protest in London, when members of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens, accompanied by retired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, either took a knee or locked arms as the U.S. national anthem was sung at London’s Wembley Stadium. Shahid Khan, owner of the Jaguars and the only Muslim owner in the league, became the first owner to stand with his players.

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A number of teams kicked off their games Sunday afternoon, with at least 100 NFL players from several teams kneeling or locking arms nationwide during the national anthem. On Soldier Field in Chicago, Chicago Bears stood and locked arms while the Pittsburgh Steelers remained in the locker room, save for lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a former captain in the Army and ex-Ranger, who stood in tunnel with hand over heart.

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In New York, 32 Denver Broncos knelt during national anthem in protest along with a number of players from the Buffalo Bills, with running back LeSean McCoy stretching during the anthem rather than kneeling.

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Several members of the New Orleans Saints remained seated on the Saints’ bench and defensive end Julius Peppers of the Carolina Panthers did not take the field with his teammates during the anthem. Minnesota Vikings stood arms locked while Tampa Bay Buccaneers receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans knelt on one knee with right hand over their hearts while their teammates in front had locked arms.

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Cleveland Browns players knelt in a huddle while Indianapolis Colts players locked arms during the anthem in spite of spectators booing loudly.

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Miami Dolphins players wore black #IMWITHKAP shirts before the game in a sign of solidarity and locked arms during the anthem. New York Jets’ acting owner, Christopher Johnson, brother of United States Ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, linked arms with Jets players in solidarity.

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Before Sunday’s Texans-Patriots matchup in Foxborough, Massachusetts, about 20 Patriots players, according to ESPN, took a knee during the national anthem, the first time anyone on the team had joined the growing protest, with QB Tom Brady stating, “I certainly disagree with what he said. I thought it was just divisive.”

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Atlanta Falcons players Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe knelt and their teammates joined by owner Arthur Blank locked arms while Detroit Lions stood arm-in-arm as eight Lions players knelt during the anthem. In a first for anthem demonstrations in the NFL, Rico Lavell sank to one knee and raised a fist at the conclusion of singing the national anthem.

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Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants players and coaches locked arms with a few players raising fists and kneeling, as a massive American flag was unfurled over the field and military jets performed a flyover. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie locked arms with his players and police officers. In celebration of scoring a one handed touchdown, Odell Beckam Jr. raised his fist in solidarity.

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Both the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans remained in their locker rooms during the national anthem, as sung by Meghan Linsey, who dropped to one knee at the conclusion, following Rico Lavelle’s demonstration. Kansas City Chiefs’ wide receiver Chris Conley joined by Tyreek Hill and several other teammates knelt during the national anthem as LA Chargers’ defensive end Melvin Ingram knelt while teammates Casey Hayward and Adrian Philips raised their arms, hands clasped together. The LA Chargers had five players sat on the bench: Chris McCain, Darius Philon, Brandon Mebane, Damion Square and Tenny Palepoi.

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Green Bay Packers rookie cornerback Kevin King joined by tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks sat during the anthem as their teammates locked arms while across the field, Cincinnati Bengals players locked arms as well.

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The Oakland Radiers’ offensive line, the only line in the NFL made up entirely of African-American players, was joined by their entire team their protest, either kneeling or sitting during the national anthem before their game against Washington Redskins, who stood with linked arms while some players chose to kneel.

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Protests have continued through to Monday night, when Dallas Cowboys with owner Jerry Jones, a known critic of the protests, took a knee before the anthem, the first any on the team has ever done, and stood together, with Cardinals, arms locked during the anthem.

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The movement took to Twitter with the hashtag #TakeTheKnee and has inspired celebrities and other public figures to take action. X-Files actress Gillian Anderson tweeted an image of her and co-star David Duchovny kneeling, arm in arm, on set, the caption: #TheXFiles #TakeAKnee. On Sunday night in Charlottesville, at a unity concert, Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake took a knee during their respective performances.

Nicole Joy Balawon

Nicole Joy Balawon is currently the Editor at Large and joined the Mustang Messenger in 2016 as a Student Life Editor.

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NFL Players Protest in Response to Trump Criticism