What exception looked like on every NFL sideline

Before last weekend, the number of NFL players respondent during “The Star-Spangled Banner” was small, now and then just one. Most were African American. The first was former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began taking a knee during the anthem last season to objection recent police shootings.

But then President Trump railed versus the protesters, and by the time the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars kicked off in London on Sunday, players and coaches of every ethnic grounding — and even some owners — were galvanizing to make very visible assertion. Here is what they did.

Three teams keep in the locker room
Pittsburgh Steelers
Seattle Seahawks
Tennessee Titans

Three teams didn’t come onto the field for the national anthem. Two of them, the Seahawks and Titans, were sporting in the same game, making for surreally empty sidelines in Nashville as Meghan Linsey sang. After “… and the home of the brave,” Linsey took a knee herself.

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin, who stood on the sideline as his team waited in the locker room earlier on its game in Chicago, explained that the players stayed inside as a show of team unity.

“We are not going to be separated by anything said by anyone,” Tomlin said earlier on the game. “If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn’t be differentiated from his teammate who chooses not to.”

The only Steelers player direct during the anthem was former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who stood at the tunnel entrance with his hand over his heart. On Monday, Villanueva explain and said he felt “embarrassed” for showing up the other Pittsburgh players.
By far, the most common location during the anthem was upright, but many players said that their verbatim stance was not a statement against the protesters but one of solidarity. Entire teams linked arms in defiance of what they said was an effort to share them.

Every Chicago Bear, Houston Texan, New York Jet, Cincinnati Bengal, Minnesota Viking, Philadelphia Eagle and Carolina Panther stood, nearly all with elbows locked together with their teammates. (Panthers protective end Julius Peppers remained in the locker room.) On Monday night in Arizona, the Cowboys and Cardinals all stood, arms linked, surrounding a massive American flag that was nearly as big as the field. Before the anthem, the Cowboys players, coaches and owner Jerry Jones locked arms and took a knee, as fans booed. But they stood again earlier on Jordin Sparks began to sing.

As Eagles protective end Chris Long framed the sentiment, “We live in a amazing country, and that’s what makes that flag special, the fact that you are able to objection it.”

 

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