What could be one of the most significant days in American sports history began in London.
Several players from the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars either knelt or locked arms on their respective sidelines in solidarity and against the words of President Trump during the national anthem at Wembley Stadium. Included among them was Jags owner Shahid Khan, who locked arms with tight end Mercedes Lewis and linebacker Telvin Smith in an unprecedented show of unity with his team.
Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan: pic.twitter.com/aMO8cHDWYb— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 24, 2017
Khan was one of seven owners to donate $1 million to President Donald Trump’s inauguration festivities. Khan later released a statement explaining his action:
“It was a privilege to stand on the sidelines with the Jacksonville Jaguars today for the playing of the U.S. national anthem at Wembley Stadium. I met with our team captains prior to the game to express my support for them, all NFL players and the league following the divisive and contentious remarks made by President Trump, and was honored to be arm in arm with them, their teammates and our coaches during our anthem. Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms – race, faith, our views and our goals. We have a lot of work to do, and we can do it, but the comments by the President make it harder. That’s why it was important for us, and personally for me, to show the world that even if we may differ at times, we can and should be united in the effort to become better as people and a nation.”
Also kneeling with Baltimore was former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. And shortly after kickoff, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti released a statement: "We recognize our players' influence. We respect their demonstration and support them 100 percent. All voices need to be heard. That's democracy in its highest form."
This was the first of what figures to be protests at 13 more NFL games starting at 1 p.m, ET, in response to Trump saying Friday night that players should be fired for not standing during the anthem and in his terms disrespecting the flag. At a rally in Alabama, he said, "Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired!"
Members of the Ravens and Jaguars kneeled during the national anthem in response to Trump tweets including Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis. pic.twitter.com/fGrfIoRtdz— Jessie 🇰🇪 (@JMKTV) September 24, 2017
Players, commissioners and owners from multiple sports lashed out against the President over the weekend. The issue grew when Trump withdrew an invitation to the White House for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, specifically pointing to star Steph Curry. Later, the college basketball national champion North Carolina Tar Heels said they would not visit the White House, citing scheduling conflicts.
Trump has not backed down. On Sunday he said, "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! …NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S."