Jacksonville, FL - Ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens kicking off in London this year, a big focus was not just what players would do on the field, but what would happen on the sidelines.
In recent days, President Trump has spoken out in person and on Twitter about athletes who kneel during the National Anthem. He has said the NFL should fire players who take part in this demonstration, and expanded the criticism to athletes in other sports as well.
Kneeling during the National Anthem was first done by Colin Kaepernick, with the then-quarterback saying it was in protest of the treatment of black people by police. Since his first demonstration, more athletes have continually joined in, but there was a heightened attention heading in to today’s game, because of the President’s comments.
About a dozen athletes from each team took a knee during the National Anthem ahead of kickoff in London. Their arms were linked, as were those of the athletes, coaches, and staff who remained standing. Among those linked in arms along the sideline was Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who says his presence was very intentional
“It was a privilege to stand on the sidelines with the Jacksonville Jaguars today for the playing of the U.S. national anthem at Wembley Stadium. I met with our team captains prior to the game to express my support for them, all NFL players and the league following the divisive and contentious remarks made by President Trump, and was honored to be arm in arm with them, their teammates and our coaches during our anthem. Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms – race, faith, our views and our goals. We have a lot of work to do, and we can do it, but the comments by the President make it harder. That’s why it was important for us, and personally for me, to show the world that even if we may differ at times, we can and should be united in the effort to become better as people and a nation,” says the full statement issued by the team on behalf of Khan.
The team also posted on social media with a photo of Khan and Head Coach Doug Marrone linked arms with players, with the caption saying only “Unity”.
Khan joins a growing list of team owners and organizations that are supporting the players and their demonstrations. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Twitter that they would aid a “Unity” spot called “Inside These Lines” during Sunday night’s game, and that “it reflects the unifying force of our great game, our players & clubs”.
Inside these lines, we can bring out the best in each other and live united. pic.twitter.com/nQpUrKFL4T— NFL (@NFL) September 24, 2017
Head Coach Doug Marrone, in his post-game press conference, said there was a lot of coordination ahead of time among the entire organization, and that he stands behind Khan’s statement.
“I’m just trying to make sure this team sticks together. It’s an unusual situation, one I’ve never- there’s no book that tells you how to do it. But I think the way we handled it- at least from my standpoint I can speak from a head coach- at least there was a lot of communication, there was a lot of talking, and at the end of the day our team is going to be closer together for it,” Marrone says.
The Jaguars went on to win the game 44-7 over the Ravens. The NFL UK says the game was played in front of a record crowd.
Neither the Jaguars nor the Ravens knelt during the playing of the British National Anthem.
The owner of the Ravens respects and supports the demonstration by the players “100 percent”, according to a statement issued by the team. The statement says “all voices need to be heard”, and “that’s democracy in its highest form”.
President Trump tweeted and retweeted several times through Sunday about the demonstrations.
Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag --- we MUST honor and respect it! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017