Members of the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks football teams stayed inside the locker room on Sunday prior to the national anthem being sung at Nissan Stadium.
“As a team, we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem,” Seahawks players said in a statement released by the team before the game. “We 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 sacrificed made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms. We remain committed in continuing to work toward equity and justice for all.”
The Tennessee Titans players also decided to stay inside during the anthem.
“As a team, we wanted to be unified in our actions today,” the players said in a statement posted on the Titans’ website. “The players jointly decided this was the best course of action. 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.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers also did not come from the locker room during the national anthem.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told CBS his team wouldn’t be on the field when the anthem plays before the game in Chicago. He doesn’t want his players to be divided between those who kneel and those who stand, he said.
“We’re not going to be divided by anything said by anyone,” Tomlin said to CBS. “We’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.”
This weekend’s protests from the NFL teams came after President Donald Trump said at a rally in Huntsville, AL, that players who knelt for the anthem should be fired.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,’” he said to loud applause.
Trump urged supporters to take action again in a Tweet on Sunday morning.
If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
The president’s remarks provoked team owners and the NFL to stridently defend the sport and its players. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has taken heat for quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s struggle to find a team, quickly condemned Trump’s comments.
"The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we've experienced over the last month," Goodell said.
"Divisive comments like these 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."
Kaepernick started the kneeling movement last year when he played for the San Francisco 49ers, refusing to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest the treatment of black people by police. He became a free agent and has not been signed.