Monday 23 April 2018

WATCH - NFL players send defiant message to Donald Trump with anthem protests

Washington Redskins tight end Niles Paul (84) and linebacker Ryan Anderson (52) and Washington Redskins linebacker Chris Carter (55) kneel with teammates during the playing of the national anthem before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders
Washington Redskins tight end Niles Paul (84) and linebacker Ryan Anderson (52) and Washington Redskins linebacker Chris Carter (55) kneel with teammates during the playing of the national anthem before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders

Liam Blackburn

NFL players delivered a defiant message to United States president Donald Trump on both sides of the Atlantic on Sunday with various protests during the American anthem.

A handful of players had previously knelt or raised fists for the Star-Spangled Banner over perceived racial injustice and on Friday Trump attacked those kneeling, suggesting they should be fired by team owners.

Rather than deter players from doing so, there were widespread protests two days later, beginning with over 20 players taking a knee in London before the Jacksonville Jaguars' victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Back in the States, the anthem was played at Nissan Stadium in Tennessee with both the Titans and Seattle Seahawks squads remaining in the locker rooms.

A statement from the Seahawks read: "As a team, we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of colour in this country.

"Out of love for our country and in honour of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms. We remain committed in continuing to work towards equality and justice for all."

The Pittsburgh Steelers players remained in the tunnel prior to their game against the Chicago Bears, although Alejandro Villanueva, who served three tours in Afghanistan with the US Army, stood alone in front of it.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had earlier told CBS: "We're football players, coaches, we're not participating in the anthem. Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, (but) to remove ourselves from the circumstance.

"People shouldn't have to choose, if a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn't be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something he shouldn't be separated from his team-mate who chooses not to. So we're not participating. That's our decision."

In Washington, the vast majority of the Oakland Raiders players sat or knelt on the sideline with their arms locked.

The day had started with the scenes at Wembley, where those who did not kneel stood arm-in-arm on the sidelines.

Jags and Fulham owner Shad Khan, who donated one million US dollars to Trump's presidential inauguration, was there too.

Khan later issued a statement through the Jaguars' social media feed in which he called Trump's remarks "divisive and contentious".

Trump's comments on Friday, which included using "son of a b**ch" to describe those who kneel, enraged Jags cornerback A.J. Bouye, one of those who knelt.

"I was p***ed off just for the simple fact I don't know the president as a man, just like he doesn't know us as men," he said.

"It holds close to home with me because what you say about us, you're disrespecting our mums. I lost my mum to cancer. My step-mum came in, I know she's not what he's calling her. She's got her doctorate from Ohio State.

"When you're five years old and you're seeing your dad have a gun pointed at his head because he looks suspicious in the neighbourhood at 6am because he's dropping his son off at a babysitter, it's not about race. It's not about black and white, it's about right and wrong."

Bouye's team-mate Malik Jackson referenced the unemployed Colin Kaepernick, the first NFL player to kneel, and admitted Khan's show of solidarity helped ease any fears about how their actions would be viewed.

"I think a lot of guys were nervous about doing it (kneeling) because they were worried about the backlash," Jackson told Press Association Sport.

"Guys have been treated unfairly, like the Kaepernick situation, because of his stance, and I think that was a deterrent for a lot of people, but having Mr Khan come down for me was a blessing because you don't have to worry about that backlash."

Throughout the day Trump continued to weigh in on Twitter, at one point retweeting a picture which had the label 'BOYCOTT!' over the NFL logo.

Press Association

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