About two dozen NFL players on the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars took a knee Sunday during the national anthem before a football game in London.
Players on one knee included Ravens linebackers 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.
Players and coaches on both teams, along with Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who were not kneeling, remained locked arm-in-arm throughout the playing of the national anthem and “God Save The Queen,” the national anthem of Britain. All of the kneeling players rose for the British national anthem.
Khan, who donated $1 million to President Donald Trump’s inauguration festivities, criticized Trump’s comments attacking earlier such protests in a statement, reports USA Today.
“Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms – race, faith, our views and our goals,” Khan said. “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.”
The Ravens had not previously participated in the pre-game protests brought to national attention by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season. Kaepernick refused to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest the treatment of black people by police. He became a free agent and has not been signed by a new team for this season.
“We recognize our players’ influence,” said Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti in a statement, reports ESPN. “We respect their demonstration and support them 100 percent. All voices need to be heard. That’s democracy in its highest form.”
The actions Sunday follow remarks by President Donald Trump at a Friday rally blasting Kaepernick and others who refuse to stand for the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,’ ” Trump said to loud applause Friday night at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, comments he kept echoing over the next two days.
“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 said in a Sunday morning tweet.
NFL owners and players have stridently defended the sport and its players.
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “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.”
On Saturday, rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland A’s became the first Major League Baseball player to take a knee during the anthem. He held his ball cap over his heart during the anthem.
“My decision has been coming for a long time,” Maxwell, the son of a U.S. Army veteran, said after the game to ESPN. “I know I was on the fence for a long time because I know no one in baseball has ever done it. I finally got to the point where I thought the inequality of man is being discussed, and it’s being practiced from our president.”
The A's issued a statement minutes after the national anthem ended, saying: “The Oakland A's pride ourselves on being inclusive. We respect and support all of our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.