NFL players have stood in solidarity ahead of their games in defiance of Donald Trump’s anti-protest criticism of athletes who kneel during the national anthem.
Protests took place on Sunday at games across the US as well as in the UK where 27 players from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens took a knee ahead of their game at Wembley stadium - the most ever in a single NFL game, according to the Guardian.
Players choosing to kneel on the ground instead of standing during the US national anthem began last year as a form of protest over excessive use of force by police against African-Americans.
But the meaning of the protest recently intensified when Trump called the players taking part “sons of bitches” and said they should be fired or suspended for “disrespecting our flag and country”.
Trump’s comments were widely denounced, not least by the very players he had taken aim at.
Here, some of them explain why they either took a knee, linked arms or stayed in the tunnel during the anthem, and what the US President’s comments meant to them:
Michael Thomas, Miami Dolphins
Thomas’ critique of Trump’s comments started out lighthearted but quickly became pointed as the Dolphins’ safety became visibly emotional when talking about his daughter’s future.
“I got a daughter, she’s going to have to live in this world,” he told reporters in the locker room. “I’m going to do whatever I got to do to make sure she can look at her dad and be like, ‘Hey, you did something, you tried to make a change’.”
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Quarterback Smith, who stood behind his team’s bench during the anthem, said he found Trump’s comments “alarming”, adding: “It’s the same guy who couldn’t condemn violent neo-Nazis. And he’s condemning guys taking a knee during the anthem.”
Jabaal Sheard, Indianapolis Colts
Linebacker Sheard clarified on Twitter that his decision to link arms with his teammates was not intended to disrespect those who serve or have served in the US military.
He explained that “my actions were in solidarity with our brothers and sisters facing unjust treatment”.
Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia Eagles
Safety Jenkins tweeted before the game that the Eagles “remain committed to advocacy for equality and social justice for all”.
He later posted a series of photos from the protest sharing his pride for “advocating free speech, liberty and justice”.
Damon Harrison, New York Giants
Defensive tackle player Harrison kneeled during the national anthem while also placing his hand on his heart to “respect the men and women of service past and present”.
In apparent reference to Trump, he wrote in a message on Twitter that “people with hate in their hearts are attempting to control us by using words only”.
Chris McCain, Los Angeles Chargers
Defensive end McCain, who chose to take a knee during the anthem, told ESPN he feels like America has a leader who is “not on our side”.
Kirk Cousins and Josh Norman, Washington Redskins
Redskins quarterback Cousins explained he linked arms with his teammates during the national anthem because he was “tired of the division going on in the country and we just wanted unity”.
His cornerback teammate Norman added that the demonstration was something he felt he had to do because of “the tyranny that we face behind Potus”.
Team statement, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks stayed in their locker during the anthem. In a statement posted on Twitter the players explained, “we will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country”.
Steve Bisciotti, Baltimore Ravens owner
The owner of the Baltimore Ravens said he supported his players’ decision to kneel and link arms in silent protest ahead of their game “100 percent”, adding that what they’re doing is “democracy in its highest form”.