Players in all 14 of Sunday's National Football League games and most NFL team owners registered their objections Sunday to President Trump's two days of comments and tweets about NFL players who protest racism and police violence during the pregame national anthem. Dozens of players knelt but virtually all of them locked arms during the national anthem in solidarity against Trump's comments in Alabama on Friday night that owners should fire "son of a bitch" players who declined to stand during the anthem. At least three owners joined their teams on the field during the anthem, two singers took a knee, and the Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, and all but one Pittsburgh Steeler stayed in their locker rooms until after the anthem was finished.
In a long series of tweets, Trump portrayed the protests begun by unsigned former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as against the American flag, but even NFL players, coaches, and commentators who disagree with kneeling during the anthem — and many of them do — recognized the protests as about being against racial injustice and the mistreatment of minorities. On Fox Sports, for example, Terry Bradshaw said the players were exercising their constitutional rights, adding, "not sure if our president understands those rights, that every American has the right to speak out and also to protest."
FOX NFL Sunday responds to President Trump's comments on NFL protests pic.twitter.com/X2EOrayGug
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 24, 2017
Sunday's displays of protest were an unprecedented rebuke and show of solidarity, in a league with enforced conformity and short contracts, though Trump seemed fine with one form of protest against him.
Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
Some of the fans booed the players who knelt on Sunday. But all but two team owners — Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson — issued statements supporting their players or criticizing Trump. Most surprisingly, Patriots owner Bob Kraft, a friend of Trump's and generous political donor, said he was "deeply disappointed" by Trump's comments. Miami Dophins safety Michael Thomas had a more personal response. Peter Weber
Dolphins safety Michael Thomas started breaking up when talking about Trump calling him "a son of a b!tch." pic.twitter.com/Z4wroPcvzW
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) September 24, 2017