NFL Players Continue To Kneel During Anthem Despite Trump’s Call

On Sunday, more than 40 players sat or knelt on one knee during renditions of the US Anthem in the 15 NFL games.

3 min read
US President Donald Trump.

Several dozen NFL players, fewer than last week, chose to sit or kneel during the US national anthem at the start of games on Sunday, a day after President Donald Trump again demanded an end to a protest he sees as a sign of disrespect for the flag.

The symbolic gesture, initiated last year by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, snowballed last week following calls by Trump for team owners to fire athletes who sat out the anthem.

On the eve of a host of National Football League games, President Donald Trump on Saturday had tweeted that it was “very important” that players stand during the national anthem, following an ongoing controversy over athletes and others kneeling in protest.

Later, Trump tweeted embedded video of fans and players standing at an NHL game, writing “19,000 RESPECTING our National Anthem!”

Other Twitter users posted that the video Trump put up was nearly a year old.

Players Continue Protesting Despite Trump’s Call

On Sunday, more than 40 players, many of them on the 49ers, sat or knelt on one knee during renditions of the "Star-Spangled Banner" in the 15 National Football League games. A week earlier, 180 players had knelt in all 16 games.

Some African-American players have adopted the practice of kneeling during the anthem to protest against police treatment of racial minorities.


Some 30 members of the 49ers knelt before a game in Arizona on Sunday, and their general manager and chief executive stood behind them, The Mercury News in the San Francisco Bay area reported.

In Seattle, several members of the Seahawks sat out the national anthem, while their opponents, the Indianapolis Colts, linked arms along the sidelines.

In other games, players on some teams went to one knee before the anthem was played and then rose as a team when the song began. Players on a handful of teams stood with raised fists during parts of the anthem or after it, according to a team-by-team rundown from sports television network ESPN.

At London's Wembley Stadium, where the NFL's first game was played on Sunday, three members of the Miami Dolphins knelt as US singer Darius Rucker performed the US anthem. All of the other uniformed Dolphins and their opponents, the New Orleans Saints, stood along the sidelines, many with their right hands over their hearts.

The three players who had knelt stood for the British anthem, "God Save the Queen."


Controversy Grips NFL

Before last weekend's games, Trump wrote a series of tweets that fueled the debate over whether the players should be able to protest during the anthem.

The controversy quickly enveloped the most popular US sports league, preoccupied the news media and became a hot topic of discussion at bars and offices across the country.

The Saints and some other teams sought a compromise stance, kneeling in unison before the anthem and standing together during the song. The aim was to show respect for both the flag and the position taken by the protesters.

"The decision to kneel ... prior to the anthem and then everyone stand up together, number one, it shows solidarity and unity for us as a team," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "Listen, it pays respect to all," he added.

During the past week, Trump kept up a drumbeat of criticism of the protesting players.

On Tuesday, Trump called on the NFL to ban players from kneeling in protest at games during the anthem.

"The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations," he wrote. "The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can't kneel during our national anthem!"

The theme may play well with Trump’s conservative base at a time when the Republican president is grappling with North Korea’s nuclear threats, a humanitarian crisis in hurricane-struck Puerto Rico, an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the healthcare struggle in Congress.

(The article has been edited for length.)

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