National Football League players from the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars knelt and linked arms during the pre-game national anthem on Sunday, hours after U.S. President Donald Trump called on fans to boycott teams that do not discipline players who protest.
At the first game since Trump stepped up his criticism of NFL players, dozens of members of the Jaguars and Ravens did not stand for the anthem and took a knee, a form of protest that began last year over excessive use of force by police against African-Americans.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan linked arms with team players in solidarity at the game in London’s Wembley Stadium. Khan donated $1 million to the Trump inauguration fund.
In an early morning post on Twitter, Trump pressed ahead with his feud about players who refuse to stand for the anthem.
…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast,” Trump wrote on Sunday. “Fire or suspend!”
In a second tweet, Trump, who is spending the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, said that the “league should back” fans who are upset about the protests.
The form of protest began in 2016 when then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick put one knee to the ground during pre-game renditions of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Several players have since made similar gestures of protest before games.
At a political rally in Alabama on Friday, Trump suggested any protesting football player was a “son of a bitch” and should lose his job.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 24, 2017
As commissioner, Goodell reports to NFL owners, some of whom have supported Trump. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, a major Trump presidential campaign donor, was confirmed by the Senate last month as Trump’s pick to serve as U.S. ambassador to Britain.
National Basketball Association players also struck back against comments by the president on Saturday after Trump clashed with one of the biggest stars in the NBA.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 24, 2017
In an early morning Twitter message on Saturday, the president rescinded a White House invitation to Stephen Curry, who had said he would “vote” against the planned visit by the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Trump tweeted.