Tom Brady linked arms with his Patriots teammates in a show of solidarity as players from several NFL teams kneeled on the field on Sunday, September 24, in response to President Donald Trump’s statement that those who refused to stand for the national anthem should be fired.
Trump sparked controversy with his comments at a rally in Alabama on Friday, September 22, where 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 bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired!’” Trump was likely referring to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who famously knelt during the national anthem in 2016, a bold move that sparked a fiery debate.
Some players from the Baltimore Ravens, the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars took a knee on the field ahead of their games on Sunday. Members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles chose to link their arms together in a sign of unity.
The Pittsburgh Steelers remained in their locker room as the anthem was played but one player, Alejandro Villanueva, who was an army ranger and did three tours in Afghanistan, went out on the field to proudly put his hand on his heart as “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played.
The Oakland A’s rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell, the son of a U.S. serviceman, was the first MLB player to kneel for the anthem on Saturday, September 23.
Brady, who has previously described Trump as a “friend” also posted a photo on Instagram on Sunday, captioning the pic that showed him with running back James White, “Strength. Passion. Love. Brotherhood. Team. Unity. Commitment. Dedication. Determination. Respect. Loyalty. Work. #nflplayer“
This isn’t the only feud Trump has sparked with professional athletes this weekend. After Golden State Warriors’ point guard Steph Curry said he didn’t want to visit the White House with his NBA Championship-winning team, Trump tweeted on Saturday that Curry was no longer welcome at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, writing, “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
Trump’s snub prompted responses from celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Sean “Diddy” Combs as well as NBA superstar LeBron James, who tweeted, “U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up!” His message was retweeted more than 600,000 times and was “liked” more than one million times.
The Golden State Warriors announced in a statement released on Saturday that while the team will be making a trip to Washington D.C. in February, they won’t be visiting the White House, saying, “We have decided that we’ll constructively use our trip to the nation’s capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion — the values that we embrace as an organization.”
Curry responded to Trump’s tweet on Saturday, telling reporters, “I don’t know why he feels the need to target certain individuals rather than others. I have an idea of why, but, it’s just kind of beneath, I think, a leader of a country to go that route. It’s not what leaders do.”
Trump responded to the public displays by the players on Sunday, tweeting, “Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!”
Check out the pics below of the NFL teams’ response to Trump’s comments.