WASHINGTON — If President Donald Trump wants NFL owners to fire athletes who protest the National Anthem, the NFL may need a new official sponsor for pink slips.
Sunday featured widespread protests during the National Anthem, with the Associated Press counting at least 130 NFL players who sat, knelt or raised their fists in defiance during the early-afternoon games. This compares to just four players did not stand and two raised their fists last week, before Trump’s comments.
That includes players from the New York Jets, who have not had a single anthem protester over the last two seasons. The team owner Woody Johnson is currently part of Trump’s administration.
Here’s a rundown of the notable protests that happened around the league.
Baltimore vs. Jacksonville in London:
First thing on Sunday morning, the anthem discussion went international, as a number of players from both the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars took a knee in protest on the sidelines of Wembley Stadium in London:
Those players who did not take a knee locked arms with teammates, coaches, former players and ownership, in a trend that was reflected throughout the league. This was said to be a position of unity for players in response to Trump’s comments.
After the American National Anthem was played, all players then stood for the playing of God Save The Queen, the English National Anthem.
Pittsburgh at Chicago:
Mike Tomlin addressed the issue with CBS’s Jamie Erdahl in the tunnel before the game, acknowledging just how divisive the issue had become.
“That’s the thing that I posted to our guys, I said, ‘If you feel the need to do anything, I’m gonna be supportive of that. As Americans, you have that right. But whatever we do, we’re going to do it 100 percent and we’re going to do it together. We’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.
“This collection of men, we’re chasing something here in 2017 and we’re not going to play politics. We’re football players, we’re football coaches and we’re not participating in the anthem today. Not to be disrespectful to the anthem but to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn’t have to choose.
“If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t have to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn’t be separated from his teammate who chooses not to. So, we’re not participating today. That’s our decision.”
Naturally, the decision was met by criticism from multiple corners of the social media sphere. While some protest supporters pointed out that this takes away from a player’s right to protest in public, others noted that this was sweeping the team into further controversy rather than succeeding in avoiding it.
Furthermore, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger and a graduate of West Point, broke ranks with his teammates, standing outside of the tunnel at Soldier Field in Chicago while his teammates remained inside. He was the only Steelers player to take the field for the anthem:
Seattle at Tennessee:
Both the Seahawks and Titans remained in the tunnels before their game in Nashville, with neither team taking the field. At the conclusion of her rendition of the anthem, Meghan Linsey took a knee:
While most of the Bills team stood for the National Anthem, most of the Broncos team took a knee, prompting boos from the hometown crowd:
One of the notable non-participants was running back LeSean McCoy, who has been a past critic of protest originator Colin Kaepernick, saying exactly one month ago that any team looking to sign the quarterback has to weigh the “chaos that comes along with it–it’s a lot.”
On Sunday, he had a bit of a change of heart, neither standing nor actively protesting, but instead using the time during the anthem to stretch at the end of the line. It should be noted that kickers regularly use this time to get in final warmups as well:
After the game, McCoy explained to the media that his change of heart happened because he was “very bothered by the comments of our president,” and specifically that Trump was “acting like a jerk.”
Anthem singer Rico Lavelle dropped to one knee at the end of his rendition, singing out the word “brave” from one knee before raising his fist:
Giants at Philadelphia:
Protesting fans outside of the stadium nearly got a full lesson in the City of Brotherly Love, including this interaction with fans who disagreed. NOTE: Very strong language:
Elsewhere in the league: