Here's How Every NFL Team Handled The National Anthem After Trump's Criticism
Trump defended his comments after getting criticized all day. "This has nothing to do with race. I never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else," he said.
Here's a quick briefing:
* NFL athletes, coaches, owners, and others defied President Trump on Sunday after he said that football players who protest during the national anthem should be fired.
* Players and teams around the league showed their displeasure with Trump's comments by kneeling and sitting during the anthem, linking arms and wearing shirts printed with slogans of support for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the protest in 2016 as a statement against police treatment of minorities.
* Other teams opted to not come out to the field for the anthem. The Pittsburgh Steelers did so to avoid being political, their coach said. The Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans, who played each other Sunday, didn't come out for the anthem for different reasons, leading to a surreal scene in which there were no players on the field during the song.
* Some owners joined their teams on the field, which is rare.
* Trump defended himself in tweets and comments to reporters. "This has nothing to do with race. I never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else," he said, showing he apparently misunderstands the situation.
* Trump continued to tweet about the NFL throughout Monday.
* Since 2016, other major-league sports players have knelt during the anthem — the first MLB player did so this week.
* Below is a game-by-game breakdown of how teams responded during games Sunday and Monday.
Here's how Trump handled things:
After several NFL teams defied the president, he tweeted on Sunday that he thinks linked arms are a show of "Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country."
"Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!" Trump tweeted, apparently misunderstanding that the linked arms were also meant to be a rebuttal to his comments.
Trump then retweeted a message encouraging people to boycott the NFL.
"You can boycott our anthem WE CAN BOYCOTT YOU! #NFL #MAGA," the tweet says.
And he retweeted a message that seemed to call the protests disrespectful to the military: "I wonder what this BRAVE American would give to stand on his OWN two legs just ONCE MORE for our #Anthem?"
A political group with ties to the president, America First Policies, planned Sunday to launch an ad campaign encouraging people to boycott the NFL.
Trump later made remarks to reporters on board Air Force One, showing he may fundamentally misunderstand why the protest was happening in the first place and why he is being criticized.
"This has nothing to do with race. I never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else. This has to do with respect for our country and respect for our flag," Trump said when asked if his comments are stoking racial tensions.
But Trump didn't double down on saying players should be fired when they protest, saying only, "It’s very disrespect to our flag and to our country, so I certainly think the owners should do something about it."
Anchors and guests on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown and on Fox also criticized Trump. Rex Ryan, a former coach and ESPN analyst, said he was a Trump supporter, even having introduced Trump at a rally in upstate New York, until he saw the president’s comments on Friday.
“I’m pissed off, you know, I’ll be honest with you, because I supported Donald Trump. I sat back and when he asked me to introduce him at a rally in Buffalo, I did that. But I’m reading these comments and it’s appalling to me. I’m sure it’s appalling to almost any citizen in our country. It should be,” Ryan said. “Calling our players SOBs and all that kind of stuff. That’s not the men that I know. The men that I know in the locker room, I’m proud of. I’m proud to be associated with those people. I apologize for being pissed off, but guess what, that’s it, because right away I’m associated with what Donald Trump stands for.”
Some of Trump's cabinet officials rushed to his defense on Sunday. "They have the right to have their First Amendment off the field," said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who is embroiled in his own scandal over accusations that he improperly used government jets.
The owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, told Fox Business in an interview earlier this month that he does not think players should protest during the anthem.
“I do not think the place to express yourself in society is as we recognize the American flag,” Jones told Fox Business reporter Cheryl Casone earlier this month. “So that’s not the place to do anything other than honor the flag and everybody that’s given up a little bit for it."
The Cowboys are scheduled to play their first game since Trump made his comments on Monday night.
Meanwhile, Kaepernick's mother, Teresa Kaepernick, has been tweeting in support of her son and against Trump.
The president continued to hammer the topic Sunday evening, in another tweet as well as additional comments to reporters.
"Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!" he tweeted.
In answering reporters' questions, Trump added that he was not calling for his supporters to boycott the NFL, in spite of his retweet of one supporter calling for a boycott.
"No, no, no — I don’t — they can do whatever they want," Trump said.
He added that, to him, the issue was about respect — not First Amendment rights.
"They have rights. We all have rights," he said. "But when you’re on that field, and, you know, there’s a situation going on, this is a great, great country, and we have a great flag, and they should respect our flag. They’re making a lot of money. I’m not begrudging anything. I’m just saying they have to respect our flag, and they have to respect our country."
The president continued to tweet about the NFL on Monday, saying that the fans "demand respect for our Flag!" He also claimed the NFL was facing "tremendous backlash."
Trump also pushed back at a CNN story that White House chief of staff John Kelly was unhappy with the president's unexpected crusade against the NFL. Kelly, a military veteran whose son was killed while serving, told CNN he believed Americans should stand for the anthem as a sign of respect for those injured and killed in war.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Dallas Cowboys — along with team owner Jerry Jones — took a knee together before Monday night's game versus the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cowboys made their collective protest before the national anthem began — in an effort to make the action about unity and not about the anthem itself, ESPN reported.
As they knelt, boos could be heard from the stands.
Jones is a Republican and donated $1 million to President Trump's inauguration.
Once the anthem began, the Arizona Cardinals linked arms.
Players from both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens knelt and linked arms during the national anthem before their game in London on Sunday.
The Ravens were joined by Ray Lewis, a former linebacker for the team and perhaps the most notable Ravens player in the history of the franchise.
Notably, team owner Shad Khan joined the players on the field in their protest. It is very rare for an owner to do this.
“It was a privilege to stand on the sidelines with the Jacksonville Jaguars today for the playing of the US national anthem at Wembley Stadium,” Khan said in a statement to the Associated Press. “I met with our team captains prior to the game to express my support for them, all NFL players and the league following the divisive and contentious remarks made by President Trump, and was honored to be arm in arm with them, their teammates and our coaches during our anthem.”
New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
Several New Orleans Saints players remained seated during the national anthem before their game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte on Sunday, in defiance of the president's comments. The Panthers stood on the field for the anthem — with one exception, defensive end Julius Peppers, who stayed in the locker room and emerged onto the field after the anthem was over.
In the lead-up to their game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the New Orleans Saints released a statement calling Trump's comments "disappointing and inappropriate."
Tom Benson, the owner of the Saints and the New Orleans NBA team the Pelicans, is a veteran. The statement says that Benson supports and honors all military branches and "also believed that the very players that represent the Saints and Pelicans organizations should be allowed to share or express their feelings."
"We believe strongly in honoring our flag and the national anthem and what it represents and we support our players. We all must strive to show that we are all Americans and continue to work towards equality for all," the statement says.
Philadelphia Eagles v. New York Giants
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears
The Pittsburgh Steelers chose not to be on the field during the national anthem ahead of their Sunday game against the Chicago Bears, who stood on the field and linked arms during the anthem.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told the NFL on CBS the team would not be on the field during the anthem "to remove ourselves from the circumstance."
"We're not going to play politics. We're football players, we're football coaches," Tomlin said. "We're not participating in the anthem today. Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn't have to choose."
One player, Alejandro Villanueva, a veteran, came out alone during the anthem.
The Chicago Bears were on the field during the anthem, most players with their arms linked. Before the game, the team released a statement supporting players who chose to protest.
"What makes this the greatest country in the world are the liberties it was founded upon and the freedom to express oneself in a respectful and peaceful manner," the statement said.
Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots
New England Patriots players linked arms, some of them kneeling, during the national anthem before their Sunday game against the Houston Texans.
Star quarterback Tom Brady, who has publicly said he's a friend of Trump's, stood linking arms with a teammate.
Earlier in the day Brady posted a photo on Instagram with the caption, "Strength. Passion. Love. Brotherhood. Team. Unity. Commitment. Dedication. Determination. Respect. Loyalty. Work. #nflplayer"
New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, a businessman and friend of the president’s, said on Saturday that he was “disappointed” with Trump’s comments.
“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the president on Friday,” Kraft wrote in a statement.
“Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”
The Houston Texans players linked arms with each other and their Chief Operating Officer Cal McNair during the anthem, with some players kneeling.
Texans owner Bob McNair called Trump's comments "divisive and counterproductive" in a statement.
"The NFL specifically, and football in general, has always unified our communities and families," McNair said. "The comments made by the President were divisive and counterproductive to what our country needs right now. I hope the reaction from our players results in positive action for our league, our communities and our country as a whole to make a positive difference in our society."
Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets
The New York Jets, joined by their chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson, stood with linked arms during the anthem before their game against the Miami Dolphins in New Jersey on Sunday.
Johnson is the younger brother of Woody Johnson, who owns the Jets and was appointed by Trump to be the US ambassador to the United Kingdom earlier this year.
Christopher Johnson issued a statement after the game saying, "It was an honor and a privilege to stand arm-in-arm unified with our players during today's National Anthem."
Dolphins players also linked arms during the anthem, and several were seen wearing "I'm With Kap" T-shirts while warming up for the game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings players linked arms with their general manager Rick Spielman and team owners Mark and Zygi Wilf during the national anthem before their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. The Wilfs released a statement before the game supporting their players' right to protest.
"As owners, it is our job to foster an environment that recognizes and appreciates diversity of thought and encourages using this platform in a constructive manner," the statement said.
Several Tampa Bay Buccaneers players stood and linked arms during the anthem, while two of their teammates, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, dropped to one knee.
Before the game, Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer issued a statement supporting players' right to protest. "As we have stated previously, the Buccaneers recognize every individual's constitutional right to freedom of speech," the statement said.
Cleveland Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Cleveland Browns linked arms during the national anthem ahead of their game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, with several players also kneeling.
Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam wrote in a statement before the game that they support their players' right to protest and use their platform to create dialogue around social issues.
"Our players, just like so many others across our league, have been honest and thoughtful with their attempt to bring awareness to the issues of inequality and social injustice," the statement said. "We were incredibly moved by the meaningful and powerful dialogue they initiated within our organization when they spoke of their intent to unify and not be disrespectful while using familiar and important terms like one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Their intent is to create positive and unifying change and that was demonstrated well by the unity they led prior to our home opener."
The Indianapolis Colts also linked arms, with several players taking a knee as well.
Colts owner Jim Irsay said in a statement on Saturday that he was “troubled by the President’s recent comments about our league and our players.”
Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions
Members of the Atlanta Falcons, joined by team owner Arthur Blank, linked arms during the national anthem before their game against the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Two players, Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe, knelt.
On Saturday, Blank issued a statement supporting players' right to protest. "We are at our very best when we are working together, building unity and including everyone's voice in a constructive dialogue," the statement said.
Most of the Detroit Lions linked arms or took a knee during the national anthem with their team owner, Martha Ford, present on the sidelines in a show of support.
Ford said in a statement before the game, "Our game has long provided a powerful platform for dialogue and positive change in many communities throughout our nation."
"Thanks primarily to our players, the NFL also has been a unifying force in our country and impactful change has and hopefully will continue to be the result of peaceful expression, done so in order to highlight social injustices of all kind.
"Negative and disrespectful comments suggesting otherwise are contrary to the founding principles of our country, and we do not support those comments or opinions."
The anthem's singer, Rico Lavelle, also took a knee:
Denver Broncos vs. Buffalo Bills
Many Denver Broncos players took a knee during the anthem before their game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, with all players linking arms.
Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis expressed support for players in a statement on Saturday evening.
"Our players have shown a tremendous commitment to raising awareness for important societal issues by using their platform in a positive way," the statement said.
Members of the Buffalo Bills knelt during the anthem, while others stood, some leaning down with their hands on the shoulders of their kneeling teammates.
The team tweeted footage from moment of the anthem and shared photos with the caption “One family.”
Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula released a statement leading up to the game, saying that the players “have the freedom to express themselves in a respectful and thoughtful manner.”
Seattle Seahawks vs. Tennessee Titans
Both teams said they would not come out for the national anthem, leading to a strange scene where none of the players were on the field for the song.
The Seahawks, in perhaps the most direct statement of protest from any NFL team so far, said they decided not to come out because they “will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country.”
“Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms,” the statement said.
The Titans released a statement saying the decision was made by their team’s players.
"As a team, we wanted to be unified in our actions today. The players jointly decided this was the best course of action," the statement said. "Our commitment to the military and our community is resolute and the absence of our team for the national anthem shouldn't be misconstrued as unpatriotic."
Megan Lindsey, who sang the anthem at LP Field in Nashville, took a knee at the end of her performance.
Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Rams owner and chairman E. Stanley Kroenke said in a statement that the team supports its players' right to protest and that the team "is committed to celebrating diversity, inclusion and respect."
"We will continue to support our players' freedom to peacefully express themselves and the meaningful efforts they make to bring about positive change in our country," he said in the statement.
The game was played on Thursday night, before Trump's comments.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers
One Kansas City Chiefs player, Justin Houston, knelt on both knees during the national anthem, while several of his team mates took one knee, before the team's game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement before the game on Sunday that his players “are deeply engaged in their communities.”
“I believe in honoring the American flag and supporting all of those whose sacrifices protect the many freedoms we have in this country, including the right to have differences of opinion,” Hunt said. “Sports have long been a unifying force — especially in challenging times — and hatred and division have no place in our game.”
Three Los Angeles Chargers players knelt during the anthem, with a few more sitting on the bench and the rest linking arms and standing.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos released a brief statement on Saturday saying that he agrees with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who called Trump’s comments “divisive”.
“I wholeheartedly agree with the commissioner's statement. The NFL and its players, more than anything, have been a force for good. What our country needs right now is a message of unity, civility and mutual respect,” Spanos said.
Green Bay Packers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals players locked arms during the national anthem. In response to the action, the team released the following statement, according to ESPN:
"Football and politics don't mix easily. Fans come to NFL games to watch great competition on the playing field and that's where our focus should be."
Members of the Green Bay Packers also locked arms during the anthem and at least three players sat down.
Oakland Raiders vs. Washington Redskins
Dee and Jimmy Haslam are the owners of the Browns. An earlier version of this post misstated what team they own.