Before facing off in London, multiple players on both the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars took a knee during the national anthem on Sunday.
The athletes, appearing to take a united stance against President Donald Trump’s recent railing against NFL player Colin Kaepernick and other players kneeling during the “Star Spangled Banner,” linked arms with each other at Wembley Stadium. Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Jaguars coach Doug Marrone stood with their team as well as their coaching and medical staffs during the anthem.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan, the only minority owner in the NFL, stood and linked arms with players Marcedes Lewis and Telvin Smith.
USA Today reports Khan donated $1 million to Trump’s presidential campaign. Later on Sunday, Khan released a statement saying that it was a privilege to stand with his players.
“Our team and National Football League reflects our nations, 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’s 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.”
According to ESPN, the Ravens had seven players who took a knee: Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, Mike Wallace, Tony Jefferson, Anthony Levine and Lardarius Webb. About 10 Jaguars knelt, including Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson and Leonard Fournette. It is thought to be the largest number of players who have knelt during the national anthem during a NFL game.
“We recognize our players’ influence,” said Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti in a statement. “We respect their demonstration and support them 100 percent. All voices need to be heard. That’s democracy in its highest form.”
During a rally speech in Alabama on Friday, Trump stated, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a b–ch off the field right now. Out, you’re fired.’”
He followed this up by pouring more gasoline on the fire with a series of tweets. “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect…our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” he wrote. “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
Numerous celebrities — including Diddy — have also joined in standing behind the players, causing a resurgence of the #TakeAKnee hashtag on social media.
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On Saturday morning, NFL commissioner Roger Goodman, responded to Trump’s comments.
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” Goodman said. “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.
“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,” he said.
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In August 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines — and sparked a movement — when he took a knee during the national anthem.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said at the time. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”