NFL player protests are expected to increase dramatically on Sunday after Donald Trump’s controversial remarks condemning the players taking a knee during the national anthem, with a number of new players and some entire teams expected to join in.
There have been dozens of NFL players engaging in some form of shows of protest during the national anthem, a movement sparked last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to speak out against police misconduct against minorities. As those protests have spread around the league, they have also generated controversy among some who claimed that the protests were disrespectful of the flag or the U.S. military.
Donald Trump joined that group on Friday, slamming NFL players during a rally in Alabama. Speaking in support of U.S. Senate candidate Luther Strange, Trump drifted into a tirade against NFL players who protested the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b***h off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!” Trump said (via CNN). “Total disrespect of our heritage, a total disrespect of everything that we stand for. Everything that we stand for.”
The remarks drew an immediate backlash, with many calling it inappropriate for the president to encourage owners to fire players expressing a political viewpoint.
Several players and teams met on Saturday to discuss NFL protests, including members of the Buffalo Bills. The team’s star running back, LeSean McCoy, called Trump an “a**hole” on Saturday, and the teammates may be following suit with a protest on Sunday.
The team’s owners, Terry and Kim Pegula, released a statement on Saturday saying that the team discussed having some kind of show of unity on Saturday. The Pegulas also condemned Trump’s remarks.
Many members of the Bills took a knee, and the entire team locked arms during the national anthem.
Sports Illustrated writer Peter King said he expected many similar NFL protests to take place on Sunday.
“My sense, after asking around with numerous on Saturday, is that it’ll look like this a lot of places,” King wrote.
King was correct. Many players in the first NFL game of the day — a contest between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens held in London — took a knee in protest.
Even Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who donated $1 million for Trump’s inauguration, took a knee in support of his team’s protest.
Others took a different tack. The Pittsburgh Steelers opted to remain in the locker room as a team during the national anthem. Only Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who served two tours in Afghanistan as a U.S. Army Ranger, stood in the team’s tunnel for the national anthem.
Some encouraged the spread of the protests. GQ writer Jay Willis encouraged every single NFL player to join the demonstrations at Sunday’s games, not only in unity against Trump’s statements but in acknowledgment of the racial disparities that sparked the original protest.
“Donald Trump’s attempt at bullying dissenters is an attack on all players, and it functions as a grimly on-point illustration of the same brand of systemic racism that first prompted Kaepernick to take a seat. At this point, remaining both neutral and silent is no longer an option.”
More information about new NFL protests in the wake of Donald Trump’s remarks will be added to this story throughout the day, including pictures of these demonstrations.
[Featured Image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]