By Katherine Lam
Published September 24, 2017
The Pittsburgh Steelers remained in the locker room during the national anthem as dozens of NFL players from several teams kneeled or locked arms at games nationwide just hours after players in London locked arms during the national anthem there.
Several teams, including the New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots kicked off their games at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin also announced earlier on “NFL on CBS” his team will not participate in the national anthem before its game Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
“We’re not participating [in the national anthem] today. That’s our decision. We’re going to be 100 percent. We came here to play a football game and that’s our intentions, and we’re going to play and play to win,” Tomlin told “NFL on CBS.”
In London, those who were not kneeling, including the coaches on both teams and Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, locked arms during the national anthem at the game in London’s Wembley Stadium. Players taking a knee during the performance included Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley, wide receiver Mike Wallace and safety Lardarius Webb as well as Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, linebacker Dante Fowler, defensive tackle Calais Campbell, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
The players then stood up for “God Save the Queen,” the British anthem.
The Jaguars tweeted a photo shortly after the team’s defiant message with the caption: “Unity.” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti released a statement posted on Twitter after the incident, saying: “We recognize our players’ influence. We respect their demonstration and support them 100 percent. All voices need to be heard. That’s democracy in its highest form.”
The display marked a tumultuous weekend between the NFL and Trump, who called the players kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” disrespectful. Sunday’s game in London was the first one since Trump’s criticism.
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning. “Fire or suspend!”
He followed it up shortly after, tweeting: “…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
Thirteen other NFL games are scheduled to take place on Sunday, with many players expected to kneel during the national anthem. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who will take the field Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, posted a photo on Instagram of him and other players kneeling before the Ravens and Jaguars game kicked off.
“#unity #brotherhood #family #dedication #love,” he captioned the photo.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady also posted a photo on Instagram with running back James White, writing in the caption: “Strength. Passion. Love. Brotherhood. Team. Unity. Commitment. Dedication. Determination. Respect. Loyalty. Work. #nflplayer”
Trump’s criticism began on Friday during a political rally in Alabama when he called for players to be fired who disrespect the American flag.
“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? He’s fired,'” Trump said to the crowd.
His comments drew sharp criticism among professional athletes and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who called Trump’s remarks “divisive.”
“Divisive 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,” Goodell said.
Goodell announced on Twitter Sunday that a video titled, “Inside These Lines” will air during Sunday night’s game as a sign of unity in the league.
“We will air this Unity spot in tonight’s game. It reflects the unifying force of our great game, our players & clubs,” Goodell wrote on Twitter.
Trump stood by his words on Saturday when he rescinded Golden State Warrior Stephen Curry’s invitation to the White House this spring to honor his team’s 2017 NBA championship. He then suggested NFL owners to fire players who kneel during the patriotic song.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the controversial movement last year when he refused to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest the treatment of black people by police. Kaepernick has since become a free agent.