Protests sweep NFL as Trump doubles down on criticism

Protests sweep NFL as Trump doubles down on criticism
© Oakland Raiders

Players across the NFL on Sunday demonstrated in the wake of President Trump’s attacks on athletes who kneel during the national anthem.

The Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins closed off the day of protests, with nearly every Raiders player remaining on the bench during the anthem.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder, meanwhile, stood arm in arm with some players on his team as others knelt.

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Throughout the day, other teams showed their defiance against a president who on Friday said players who knelt during the anthem should be removed from the field.

Among those teams that saw players demonstrating on Sunday were the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars, who faced off in London, and the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.

Both the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks stayed in their locker rooms during the anthem.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers also chose to remain off the field, a sole player, Alejandro Villanueva, a retired Army Ranger, emerged outside of the tunnel for the anthem.

Amid the wave of protests on Sunday, Trump repeatedly doubled down on his criticism.

“Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy,” Trump tweeted Sunday evening.

Earlier in the day, the president said that while standing and locking arms was a positive show of solidarity, kneeling was “not acceptable.”

He also retweeted a message that seemed to be calling for a boycott of the NFL.

Asked by reporters afterward if he supported a boycott, Trump said no. But he reiterated his criticism of those players that knelt during the anthem.

“They have rights. We all have rights. 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,” Trump said, per pool reports.

Trump’s initial criticism on Friday drew an immediate backlash over the weekend.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now,'” Trump told a crowd in Huntsville, Ala., on Friday during a rally for Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock McConnell PAC demands Moore return its money Graham on Moore: 'We are about to give away a seat' key to Trump's agenda MORE (R-Ala.), who is facing special election primary runoff Tuesday.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday released a statement saying Trump’s “divisive comments … demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

By Sunday morning, Trump was facing criticism from coaches and players across the sports world. After Trump disinvited basketball star Stephen Curry of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from visiting the White House on Saturday, the head of the NBA Players Association, Chris Paul, also criticized the president.

Even some of Trump’s close allies — such as former Buffalo Bills and New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan — said they were upset by the president’s remarks.

Another Trump supporter, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, said he was “deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday.”

Trump brushed off Kraft’s criticism on Sunday. “I like Bob very much, we’re friends — he gave me a Super Bowl ring a month ago, right? — so he’s a good friend of mine, and I want him to do what he wants to do,” the president told reporters. “But we have a great country, we have great people representing our country, especially our soldiers, our first responders, and they should be treated with respect.”