Dozens of NFL players took a knee during the national anthem as others sat or raised their fists before the games of Week 4 Sunday, a day after President Trump tweeted that it that it was “very important” for players to stand.
Still, the number of kneeling players was down from last weekend, when more than 200 athletes took a knee after Trump lashed out at athletes who protest during the national anthem.
Among the players who kneeled Sunday: half of the San Francisco 49ers. The team released a video of the athletes with the caption: “Together.” Their opponents, the Arizona Cardinals, stood.
The 49ers added in a statement: “For more than a year, members of our team have protested the oppression and social injustices still present in our society. While some may not have taken a knee or raised a fist, we have all shared the desire to influence positive change. Today, our team chose to publicly display our unity in a new way and, in turn, urge others do the same.”
Sunday’s first NFL game was marked by a mix of protests amid the ongoing debate over how NFL players should exercise their voice during the national anthem.
The New Orleans Saints took a page from the Cowboys as the game against the Miami Dolphins began in London, kneeling together as a team initially, but then standing and locking arms as the U.S. national anthem was sung by Darius Rucker.
Meanwhile, at least three members of the Dolphins — Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas — were seen kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” All three then stood for the British anthem, “God Save the Queen,” which was sung because the game was being played in England.
Trump’s criticism has not abated since those initial comments. The president sent a new tweet criticizing NFL players for standing, calling into question the motivations of the protest.
“When you kneel for our #NationalAnthem, you aren’t protesting a specific issue, you are protesting our Nation and EVERYTHING it stands for !!” he wrote in his latest tweet about the protests, sent Sunday morning.
■ The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, in a coordinated effort, briefly took a knee before the national anthem, but stood during the song. As both teams knelt, loud boos could be heard by the crowd in Baltimore.
■ The Cleveland Browns, who had a large group of kneeling players last week, stood together as a team before their game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but at least nine players raised their fists during the playing of the song. The players with raised fists were Christian Kirksey, Jason McCourty, Randall Telfer, Isaiah Crowell, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Larry Ogunjobi, Kenny Britt, Dominique Alexander and Ibraheim Campbell. The Bengals all appeared to be standing.
The NBA is recommending teams address fans or show videos expressing themes of unity before their first home games, while reminding them of the rule that players must stand for the national anthem.
A memo was sent to teams Friday, a day after Commissioner Adam Silver said he expected players would stand for the anthem .
In the memo, obtained by The Associated Press, Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum suggested teams use their opening games “to demonstrate your commitment to the NBA’s core values of equality, diversity, inclusion and serve as a unifying force in the community.”
He recommended an address by a player or coach to fans before the anthem, or a video featuring players or community leaders speaking about important issues and showing photos from past community events.
The league’s preseason schedule begins Saturday with two games, including the NBA champion Golden State Warriors hosting Denver.