NFL protests Donald Trump: A team-by-team look at Week 3 national anthem protests



Mike Tomlin says the Steelers will not be participating in today’s national anthem

Mike Tomlin says the Steelers will not be participating in today’s national anthem




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Mike Tomlin says the Steelers will not be participating in today’s national anthem 1:17

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If President Trump thought he would influence NFL owners, coaches and players with his remarks Friday at an Alabama rally, he was mistaken, based on what followed in Week 3 of the NFL season

"Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. Out," Trump said amid applause. "He’s fired. He’s fired!"

The NFLPA issued a swift rebuke, followed by the league, and throughout the day on Sunday, teams around the league staged protests — both on the field and in the locker room — during the national anthem.

The demonstrations started with Sunday morning’s game in London between the Jaguars and Ravens and continued throughout the day.

Here’s a look at how each team responded to Trump’s remarks:

Cardinals president Michael Bidwell, in a statement issued Sunday night: "I am extremely proud of our players and the contributions they make that extend well beyond the playing field. There are countless examples of the positive influence and extraordinary impact these players have on our community. Football is something that has always united us as Americans and, particularly in times like these, has the ability to inspire rather than divide. It’s a responsibility in which we have always taken great pride and will continue to embrace."

Arizona veteran defensive end Frostee Rucker offered a more pointed response: "It’s a shame that we’re still dealing with these issues, over and over and over, and he somehow gets a pass to say these things. These guys, we’ve got to stay together and show him in a different way. Instead of lashing out and being pissed off about it, we’ve got to stick together. Show compassion, love and everything else we do. It’s a brotherhood in the locker room, we’re out in the community, and we know ourselves. We know everything we’re about. We can’t let one single person, even though it’s the president, dictate how we feel. We stick together. We’re in a union. If someone takes a knee, it’s almost like we all take a knee, in a sort. He said what he said. We’re going to stick together and be a team."

And coach Bruce Arians said, "I thought the commissioner had a great statement, and I agree with it. I’ve been in locker rooms for 25 years, and some of the most reputable men I’ve ever met wear that uniform. To even overcome the things in their life to get to the NFL is amazing. What they’ve done in the last month for hurricane relief victims speaks volumes of what we’re all about in the NFL."

Owner Arthur Blank: "We are at our very best when we are working together, building unity and including everyone’s voice in a constructive dialogue. 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."

Before Sunday’s game in England, which kicked off at 9:30 a.m. ET, dozens of players from both the Ravens and Jaguars protested the national anthem by kneeling. Players who weren’t on their knee showed their unity by locking arms with teammates. It appeared that every player from both teams was either kneeling or standing with locked arms.

On the Ravens’ sideline, nearly a dozen players kneeled, including Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Willie Henry and Za’Darius Smith.

Hall of Famer and Bills legend Jim Kelly spoke out against those who would take a knee during the anthem while still calling for unity.

"Even though I’m thankful the Bills won today, I’m really upset and sad about what’s happening," Kelly said in an Instagram post. "And I imagine many of you are too. I love the game of football and all that it means to the players, fans and cities across THIS country…but with all that’s going on it’s hard.

"The only time I will ever take a knee is to pray and to thank the Good Lord for what he’s given me. We all have our issues. We all need to try and appreciate and understand each other and help each other and that goes for our PRESIDENT TOO.

"I don’t have all the answers. "But I do know that we need to UNITE not SEPARATE. I hope next week we can STAND , LOCK ARMS and become ONE FAMILY."

During the anthem Sunday in Buffalo, the Bills’ entire sideline walked a few steps toward midfield with some players taking a knee amidst boos from the crowd. Running back LeSean McCoy knelt — and stretched.

"I like LeSean McCoy, don’t get me wrong, but I totally, 100 percent I disagree with what he did," Kelly explained. "You want to kneel? Fine. But when you go and do what he did yesterday, that sort of bummed me out. And I lost a lot of respect for him. … You want to kneel? That’s your prerogative. I would never do that. I will always stand, thank the good Lord for everything I got. But when you disrespect the way he did and just go by his everyday duty in the national anthem being sung? Uh-uh. I won’t go for that."

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was one of the few owners to not issue a statement, though veteran defensive end Julius Peppers remained in the locker room during the anthem.

"I want to get one thing clear: This wasn’t about disrespecting the military, disrespecting the police, first responders — none of that," Peppers said, via the team’s official website. "It was about me making a decision as a man on my two feet. I didn’t want to ask anybody else to do anything with me. I thought it was appropriate to stay in. We know what went on this week; the comments that were made by the President. I felt like he attacked our brothers – my brothers in the league. I felt it was appropriate to stand up with them and stay in the locker room.

"I know a lot of people might not understand it. A lot of people might be upset about it. And that’s fine. I’m not living my life trying to make everybody happy. I’m doing things that I feel are right and things that I believe in. There are only a few times in a man’s life where you have a chance to stand up for something that you believe in and make a statement. Today I thought that was that chance, and I took it."

Chairman George McCaskey’s statement: "The Chicago Bears are proud to support our players, coaches and all members of our organization to bring peace and unity together through football. What makes this the greatest country in the world are the liberties it was founded upon and the freedom to express oneself in a respectful and peaceful manner. Through important dialogue with our players and team, this divisive political situation has unified our franchise for the present and the future."

Coach John Fox added: "We felt, as a team, that [Trump’s remarks] were divisive and disrespectful. What we’re all about is being united and together."

The Bengals released this statement following the national anthem of their game against the Packers: "Football and politics don’t mix easily. Fans come to NFL games to watch great competition on the playing field and that’s where our focus should be."

Some Bengals’ players locked arms during the anthem, and coach Marvin Lewis said the controversy put players in an "awkward" position.

"Our guys remain very committed to winning football games and continuing the things, the great things they do in our community in Cincinnati — their outreach and everything they do," Lewis said after the game. "They chose to show their support for our veterans, for our military, for the Cincinnati community by simply standing and standing unified together. They weren’t going to let divisive words divide them.

"That’s the conclusion they came to, to be very respectful of the anthem and to stand together and focus on what we want to do and that’s win football games, and we’ve been consistent with that all the way through … enough to be said about it, it’s over. You don’t want to have that be a focus of football, and unfortunately it was. It was something that had gone away, and all of a sudden it got back to the forefront."

Statement from Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam: "We view our organization, our league and our players as great unifiers of people," the Haslams said, via "Our players, just like so many others across our league, have been honest and thoughtful with their attempt to bring awareness to the issues of inequality and social injustice. We were incredibly moved by the meaningful and powerful dialogue they initiated within our organization when they spoke of their intent to unify and not be disrespectful while using familiar and important terms like one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

"Their intent is to create positive and unifying change and that was demonstrated well by the unity they led prior to our home opener. They have continued to prove this dedication to unite diverse members of our community throughout this past month by establishing direct conversation with the Cleveland Police Department and creating a plan to work together in our neighborhoods. We are also proud of their many other significant efforts in our city throughout the year that are done quietly to improve the lives of others.

"We must not let misguided, uninformed and divisive comments from the President or anyone else deter us from our efforts to unify. Our stance in support of the liberties of peaceful, personal expression afforded to our players and all Americans will remain strong, and we will continue to encourage our players to respectfully use their earned platform to inspire positive change in our nation and throughout society."

At least 20 Browns players took a knee during the anthem Sunday, including linebacker James Burgess, who supported Trump before comments on Friday evening.

And Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer called out Trump, saying in the wake of the team’s 31-28 loss to Indianapolis that "I’m no son of b—-" in response to Trump’s comments at the Friday rally.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones hasn’t yet issued a statement.

Broncos president Joe Ellis, via the Denver Post: "It was disappointing. … It was divisive. I felt like we had to stick up for our players. I’m really proud of our players and everything they do. They’re a great bunch of guys. They’re not dividers, they’re uniters."

Lions owner Martha Ford’s statement: "Our game has long provided a powerful platform for dialogue and positive change in many communities throughout our nation. 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."

Also, in a first on Sunday, Rico LaVelle, who sang the anthem before the game, supported protesting NFL players by kneeling at the end of his performance.

President and CEO Mark Murphy: "It’s unfortunate that the President decided to use his immense platform to make divisive and offensive statements about our players and the NFL. We strongly believe that players are leaders in our communities and positive influences. They have achieved their positions through tremendous work and dedication and should be celebrated for their success and positive impact. We believe it is important to support any of our players who choose to peacefully express themselves with the hope of change for good. As Americans, we are fortunate to be able to speak openly and freely."

And he also featured the Bill of Rights in his daily ticket giveaway:

Statement from owner Bob McNair: "The NFL specifically, and football in general, has always unified our communities and families," McNair said in the statement. "The comments made by the President were divisive and counterproductive to what our country needs right now. I hope the reaction from our players results in positive action for our league, our communities and our country as a whole to make a positive difference in our society.

"Texans players are caring, intelligent men who do so much good, as was shown in the past month when our city was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. I have never been more proud of our players and our team than during this time. It was a display of what is truly possible when we all work together. We will continue to support our players to work together to promote the values of respect and unity."

Owner Jim Irsay’s statement: "I am troubled by the President’s recent comments about our league and our players. Sports in America have the unique ability to bring people from all walks of life and from different points of view together to work toward or root for a common goal, and the Indianapolis Colts are proud to be a part of that tradition in our home city and state.

"The vast majority of players in the NFL — especially those who have worn and continue to wear the Horseshoe — have donated millions of dollars to charities, raised money for those affected by recent hurricanes, created charitable foundations, visited schools, mentored students, worked in homeless shelters, cleaned up parks, and put in hours of their personal time toward improving their communities and the lives of those around them.

"That’s the spirit in which this nation was founded, and we all need to work tirelessly to bring people together to take on the challenges that face us and give back to the people of our communities. More so than any result on the field, that is a common goal worth rooting for."

Owner Shad Khan didn’t make a public statement before the game — "Commissioner Goodell’s statement speaks for Mr. Khan and the Jaguars" — but he stood arm in arm with his team during Sunday morning’s anthem.

Afterwards, Khan said this: "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. 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."

Chiefs chairman and CEO issued a tepid statement just before kickoff:

But quarterback and team leader Alex Smith was much more thoughtful on the matter Sunday afternoon.

"You know me, I don’t always feel comfortable talking about a lot of this stuff," Smith said, via the Kansas City Star. "We’re athletes, we’re playing football. But certainly I’d be lying if I said the comments didn’t upset me.

"I’ve been in this league a long time. The league’s not perfect. But I’m definitely proud of a lot of my teammates, coaches, trainers, owners …There are so many good things, great things that go on in this league. … It struck a chord a little bit to see guys get attacked for a peaceful protest."

Regarding Trump’s remarks, Smith said: "I’m talking about the comments that were made by the president, targeting the NFL, targeting the quality and character of guys in this league for that very protest. I found that very alarming. It’s the same guy who couldn’t condemn violent neo-Nazis. And he’s condemning guys taking a knee during the anthem.

Owner Dean Spanos: "I wholeheartedly agree with the commissioner’s statement. The NFL and its players, more than anything, have been a force for good. What our country needs right now is a message of unity, civility and mutual respect."

"You got people in the stands yelling, ‘Stand up, stand up,’ and our president on Twitter … why you on Twitter, bro?," defensive end Chris McCain said, via the San Diego Union-Tribune. "Why you tweeting us, calling me an S.O.B.? My momma ain’t no ‘B.’ She’s a real woman.

"I’m not standing against you, but I want you know that you’re a grown man, I’m a grown man, I’ve got a (2-year-old) daughter who has to follow what you set up, and you’re clearly telling me you don’t care about my daughter. … Our own commander in chief, this guy who we’re supposed to lean on and who is here to protect us, clearly is not on our side. He’s not."

The Rams played Thursday, a day before Trump’s remarks, but owner Stan Kroenke still issued this statement: "The Los Angeles Rams, our fan base and our city are all comprised of people from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. When we recognize that this diversity is our strength and seek to understand different perspectives, we are more enlightened and empathetic human beings. Our organization is committed to celebrating diversity, inclusion and respect, values that help define Los Angeles. We are proud of the work that our players and all NFL players do to make our communities better places to live. We believe in the tenets of the national anthem, which is a pillar of this country; just as freedom of speech is another pillar and a constitutional right. We will continue to support our players’ freedom to peacefully express themselves and the meaningful efforts they make to bring about positive change in our country"

Rams linebacker Connor Barwin tweeted Saturday, hours after Trump’s comments: "The constitution guarantees our right to individual opinions. The flag, the National Anthem, represent and celebrate that freedom. We do not live in a country run by a totalitarian government where peacefully sharing opinions WILL get one fired or thrown in jail. We need to celebrate and protect that freedom. If our president doesn’t understand this most important truth, it’s even more important that we do."

Owner Stephen Ross’ statement: "Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness. We need to seek to understand each other and have civil discourse instead of condemnation and sound bites. I know our players who kneeled for the anthem and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone. They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community, including working with law enforcement to bring people together. We all can benefit from learning, listening and respecting each other. Sports is a common denominator in our world. We all have the responsibility to use this platform to promote understanding, respect and equality."

Dolphins defensive back Michael Thomas got emotional when talking about why he chose to protest:

Statement from Zygi and Mark Wilf, and the entire family: "Professional sports offer a platform unlike any other, a platform that can bring people from a variety of backgrounds together to impact positive change in our society. As owners, it is our job to foster an environment that recognizes and appreciates diversity of thought and encourages using this platform in a constructive manner. Rather than make divisive statements, we believe in promoting thoughtful, inspiring conversation that unifies our communities. We are proud of our players, coaches and staff for the important role they play in our community, and we fully support their constitutional right to respectfully and peacefully express their beliefs."

Patriots owner Bob Kraft’s rebuke of Trump was among the most vociferous. Kraft, who considers himself a close friend of Trump, also donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration celebration.

"I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday," Kraft said. "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."

"I thought it was just divisive," he told WEEI’s "Kirk & Callahan." "Like I said, I just want to support my teammates. I am never one to say, ‘Oh, that is wrong. That is right.’ I do believe in what I believe in. I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust. Those are the values that my parents instilled in me. That is how I try and live every day. I have been blessed to be in locker rooms with guys all over the United States over the course of my career. Some of my great friends are from Florida, Virginia, New York, Montana, Colorado, Texas. The one thing about football is it brings so many guys together — guys you would never have the opportunity to be around. Whether it was in college, and all the way into the pros. We’re all different, we’re all unique. That is what makes us all special."

Nonetheless, the Patriots — the reigning Super Bowl champs — were showered by boos from their home fans during the national anthem.

Saints and Pelicans (NBA) owner Tom Benson’s statement: "Our organization takes great pride in equality and inclusion and find the comments by the President disappointing and inappropriate relative to our players on this issue. Tom Benson served in the military and continues to this day to support all military branches and feels strongly that we honor those men and women who defend our freedoms and our freedom of speech. He also believes that the very players that represent the Saints and Pelicans organizations should be allowed to share or express their feelings.

"We prefer to take this moment in time and work together, all of us, to stop the divisiveness. Our players and our organization serve the New Orleans community selflessly and do so without care of race, creed or sexual orientation and that makes us a better city and a better team. We believe strongly in honoring our flag and the national anthem and what it represents and we support our players. We all must strive to show that we are all Americans and continue to work towards equality for all. The NFL and NBA, perhaps more than any sports, have the power to bring communities together."

And Saints coach Sean Payton went so far as to question Trump’s "wisdom."

"That’s being a little blunt, but that’s how I feel. You know, I want that guy to be one of the smarter guys in the room. And it seems like every time he’s opening his mouth, it’s something that is dividing our country and not pulling us together. And that has nothing to do with my feelings about the anthem, but just my take [over the last] 24 hours. So that’s how I feel."

Three Giants’ players kneeled Sunday, including pass rusher Olivier Vernon who said afterwards, "I don’t care if you’re the President or not. You ain’t my President."

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall added: "I’m really disappointed in President Trump’s remarks. That just proves, this is the most powerful man in the country, and for him to stand up and say that, it shows what we feel is real. That’s what we’re saying. Exactly how President Trump talked, that’s what we’re talking about."

New York Jets chairman and acting owner Christopher Johnson said in a statement Sunday that, "It was an honor and a privilege to stand arm-in-arm unified with our players during today’s National Anthem. We are very proud of our players and their strong commitment to work in our community to make a positive, constructive, and unifying impact."

"I look at his comments as just a distraction, trying to distract where we’re headed as a country," wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said of Trump, via "I think people are starting to understand what’s going on in this country. You just have to stay away from the distractions and look at the main issues. As a team, we’re going to continue to be unified in this. We’re going to fight the good fight together."

Owner Mark Davis originally encouraged his players not to protest but had a change of heart in light of recent events.

"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," Davis told’s Paul Gutierrez. "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.

The Raiders wanted to skip the anthem entirely — just as the Seahawks, Titans, and Steelers had done earlier in the day — but couldn’t because it would have resulted in a 15-yard penalty due to a different coin toss procedure that’s used for primetime games, according to NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya.

Statement from owner Jeffrey Lurie: "The best of us lend our compassion and determination to the aid of others. Every day I see the genuine dedication and hard work of our players. And I support them as they take their courage, character, and commitment into our communities to make them better or to call attention to injustice. Having spoken with our players, I can attest to the great respect they have for our national anthem and all it represents. We at the Philadelphia Eagles firmly believe that in this difficult time of division and conflict, it is more important than ever for football to be a great unifier."

Safety and team leader Malcolm Jenkins, who has been raising his first in protest dating back to last season, had this to say about Trump: "It was no different than the trolls on social media I’ve been dealing with for a whole year. That same rhetoric is what I hear on a daily basis. It hits other people close to home when you see a teammate or a player across the league that you know is a great person, who is out there trying to do their part, rebuilding our communities and making our communities safer and is then attacked. I think that’s why you saw the response that you did."

Team president Art Rooney II’s statement: "Our players have stayed unified and have respected the fact that, like our country, there are diverse opinions in our locker room. It is a difficult time in our country. I hope that eventually we will come together as a nation to respect the diverse opinions that exist and work together to make our communities better for all our citizens."

The Steelers went so far as to stay in the locker room during the national anthem ahead of their 1 p.m. start in Chicago. But one Steelers player didn’t remain in the locker room during the anthem. Starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who was an Army Ranger before joining the NFL, stood just outside the player’s tunnel at Soldier Field. It was a development that took some of his teammates by surprise.

During his postgame comments, coach Mike Tomlin said, "We will not be divided by this. We’ve got a group of men in there that come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, races, creed, ethnicities, and religions, and so forth. That’s football. That’s a lot of team sports. But because of our position, we get drugged into bulls—, to be quite honest with you. And so, some have opinions, some don’t. We wanted to protect those that don’t; we wanted to protect those that do. We came here to play a football game today, and that was our intentions."

The 49ers played Thursday, a day before Trump’s remarks, but CEO Jed York still issued this statement: "The callous and offensive comments made by the President are contradictory to what this great country stands for. Our players have exercised their rights as United States citizens in order to spark conversation and action to address social injustice. We will continue to support them in their peaceful pursuit of positive change in our country and around the world. The San Francisco 49ers will continue to work toward bringing communities, and those who serve them, closer together."

The Seahawks become the second NFL team on Sunday to remain in the locker room during the national anthem to protest social injustice. The team issued this statement ahead of their game against the Titans in Nashville:

Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk’s statement: "I am proud to stand with our players and support them in their work on and off the football field. I completely agree with Commissioner Goodell that we are better off as a nation when we are unified and pulling together. I have seen that kind of attitude first-hand in Tennessee and across our country in the many benevolent and public-spirited efforts of our NFL players, often without any public recognition.

"Our players make public contributions day-in and day-out and when I hear anyone making disparaging remarks about them, I know it has to be the result of not knowing what they bring to our communities or what they have accomplished."

Like their opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, the Titans also remained in the locker room during the national anthem.

The Redskins deliberated for much of Sunday afternoon before releasing this statement just before the 8:30 p.m. ET kickoff: "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."

Snyder was one of several NFL owners to donate $1 million to Donald Trump’s inauguration celebration.

Shortly after the Redskins beat the Raiders, cornerback Josh Norman, who locked arms with Redskins owner Dan Snyder during the anthem, was brutally candid about his thoughts on Trump.

"When a man calls you out like that, behind the (office of the) POTUS, and he’s supposed to be the President of America — he’s supposed to be — calls you out like that, in a group, and there’s more going on in the world, that’s frustrating," Norman said. "That’s coming from you. I’m all cool. You give people the benefit of the doubt, but he’s coming in that direction, directly at you, nah, man. One brother, you mess with one, you mess with all. Nobody’s divided in this. We was in unity. We wanted to stand for something.

"I’m telling you right now, this man is not welcome in Washington, D.C. He’s not. I hope he won’t be around when I see him. He’s not welcome. I can say that to your face. He’s not welcome. …

Norman’s comments about Trump’s original remarks echoed those made by players, owners, the NFLPA and the league in the hours and days that followed.

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