SportsPulse: Trysta Krick explains how the national anthem became so entrenched in pro sports and how often we use (and misuse) the American flag in everyday life.
USA TODAY Sports
One week after protests and demonstrations swept the NFL in response to President Trump, players and teams continued with the displays on Sunday.
Approximately 30 players from the San Francisco 49ers, playing in their first game since Trump’s comments targeting players who would not stand during the national anthem, chose to kneel together, though fewer players throughout the league did so this week. Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted not to stand last year to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
“For more than a year, members of our team have protested the oppression and social injustices still present in our society,” the team wrote in a statement. “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. Our demonstration is simply a representation of how we hope our country can also come together by putting differences aside and solving its problems.”
The Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions were among the other teams who had individual players kneel or remain seated during the national anthem.
The New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars kneeled before the anthem and then stood, while the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders collectively stood for the anthem.
Among the players to kneel or remained seated during the anthem were Seahawks defensive ends Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark; Lions linebackers Steve Longa and Jalen Reeves-Maybin; Bills fullback Mike Tolbert and cornerback Shareece Wright; and Dolphins tight end Julius Thomas, safety Michael Thomas and wide receiver Kenny Stills. Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews, who said he would continue kneeling until Trump apologized, was not on the field for the anthem on Sunday.
Lions owner Martha Ford asked players not to kneel for the anthem but said she would financially back their causes.
“As a team, we came together, talked to Mrs. Ford, the owners, and we understand the issues for the most part, generally,” Lions running back Ameer Abdullah said. “Me personally, I definitely want to be an aid in growing the social awareness in this country, that it is a race problem in this country.”
Raiders tight end Jared Cook told USA TODAY Sports that the Raiders decision to stand during the anthem was “influenced.”
Cook declined to elaborate on if it was coaches or ownership who pushed players to stand.
On Thursday, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears stood linked arm-in-arm for the anthem.
The displays come one week after more than 250 players engaged in some form of protest after Trump repeatedly called for NFL owners to fire players who do not stand during the national anthem.
Trump tweeted on Saturday night, “Very important that NFL players STAND tomorrow, and always, for the playing of our National Anthem. Respect our Flag and our Country.”
Contributing: Lindsay H. Jones
PHOTOS: NFL players’ protests