The Sunday NFL games have already started as the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars are currently playing a game at Wembley Stadium in London, England. It's part of a program of international games the NFL has been doing for a few years now. But getting the attention this morning wasn't the game itself, but it was players reacting to the words of President Donald Trump.
The NFL has been dealing with fall out from a protest that began last year with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem. The protest was to point out the racial inequality that exist in the United States. Other players have joined in the kneeling before, but Kaepernick has been the face of the protest. The fact that he is not currently on a team has lead many to claim it's due to his protests while others claim his diminishing play is the reason for his continue free agent status.
That discussion got magnified on Friday night when Trump spoke at a political rally in Huntsville, Alabama. The president said: "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. Out. He's fired! He's fired!"
This has lead to some prominent sports figures taking issue with the President's comments including Steph Curry coming out and say he would not be going to the White House with the champion Golden State Warriors. The White House responded by uninviting the team. LeBron James tweeted out support for Curry and referred to Trump as a "bum".
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
The NFL Owners have come out against Trump on the issue, supporting players rights to peaceful protests. Among them was long-time Trump friend and supporter Robert Kraft. Part of Kraft's statement reads:
I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday," Kraft said. "I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger.
There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics.," Kraft said. "I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. Our players are intelligent, thoughtful, and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.
Trump has tweeted out a suggestion that American's could boycott NFL games.
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
During their MLB game last night, Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland A's kneeled during the national anthem. He still held his hat over his heart. His teammate, Mark Canha, put his hand on Maxwell's shoulder in a sign of support during the anthem.
Which leads us to this morning when over a dozen Ravens and Jaguar players knelt during the U.S. national anthem when it was played at Wembley Stadium.
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
Prior to today, the Ravens haven't had any players kneel in protest. Today they had seven: linebackers Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith, wide receiver Mike Wallace, safety Tony Jefferson, and defensive backs Anthony Levine and Lardarius Webb.
While many Jaguars held hands during the anthem, 10 players choose to take a knee: cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, defensive ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, safety Tashaun Gipson, and running back Leonard Fournette.
Among those kneeling was extremely popular former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
The players stood during the playing of the U.K. national anthem.
Both team's head coaches and Jaguars owner Shad Kahn stood with the players during the anthem. While Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said in 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.
The networks, who often times cut away during the national anthem will not do so during games today because of more protests are expected.