After President Trump put the NFL’s taking-a-knee debate smack dab on the 50-yard line of the national consciousness, scores of NFL players pulled off their own personalized protests on the sidelines during the national anthem before Sunday’s games.
Some took a knee, in the spirit of former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick. Some team members locked arms. And some stayed completely off the field to show their solidarity with one another in what has become a spirited national debate: What exactly is the propriety of publicly sitting out the national anthem as a way of protesting social ills?
Here’s what each team did on Sunday during The Star-Spangled Banner:
Seattle Seahawks at Tennessee Titans
Both teams made a deafening statement by not even taking the field as Meghan Linsey, former contestant on The Voice, sang the national anthem. The move was not a complete surprise: The Seahawks had announced previously that they’d sit out the anthem, writing in a press release: “As a team, we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms.”
Even Linsey got in on the act, taking a knee of her own after singing the anthem before the game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. “I was absolutely terrified walking out there,” the country singer said later. “I knew what I was getting ready to do, and I understood what it meant. Obviously, I made a name for myself in country music, and I knew what the backlash would be. So I walked out there scared. But I have to go into my gut and my heart, and I knew that was the right thing to do today.”
Both the Titans & Seahawks remained in their locker rooms during the national anthem while the singer took a knee during her performance. pic.twitter.com/zeBQhYbKPN
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 24, 2017
Pittsburgh Steelers at Chicago Bears
Another no-show came before the Steelers faced the Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago. The entire Steelers team stayed off the field during the anthem, though some of the coaches, including Mike Tomlin, were on the sideline. There was one exception: Pittsburgh’s Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who had served in Afghanistan, was seen inside the tunnel during the song, his hand over his heart. Meanwhile, the Bears stood on the sideline during the performance, their arms linked together.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
In a mixed-bag protest, some players, like wide receiver Jarvis Landry, stood while other Dolphins knelt nearby, including safety Maurice Smith and tight end Julius Thomas. Jets head coach Todd Bowles and Dolphins owner Steve Ross joined their teams on the field, locking their arms together.
Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars (in London, England)
Raven and Super Bowl champ Terrell Suggs took a knee before the game. Alongside him was retired Ravens legend Lewis, who locked arms with wide receiver Mike Wallace and linebacker C.J. Mosley. Other Baltimore players and coaches also locked arms while at least a dozen Jaguars took knees during the anthem. They included defensive stars Calais Campbell and Jalen Ramsey, along with No. 4 draft pick running back Leonard Fournette.
Houston Texans at New England Patriots
This one was weird: Since the Patriots have often been seen as sympatico with Trump, with owner Robert Kraft and star Tom Brady both tight with the president, fans may have expected a low-key response on Sunday. Kraft, however, condemned Trump’s tweeted remarks critical of players like Kaepernick who have protested the anthem in the past. And the Patriots also demonstrated during the performance, as Brady arm-locked with many of his teammates while around 20 players chose to kneel. The Texans players all locked arms.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
At least three New York Giants took a knee before the team’s game in Philadelphia. Olivier Vernon, Landon Collins and Damon “Snacks” Harrison all knelt while “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed at Lincoln Financial Field. It was the first time any Big Blue players had taken a knee during the national anthem. The rest of the Giants locked arms in unity, as did all of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
Several Chargers stood with their arms interlocked and others sat. Some Chiefs players knelt, including linebacker Justin Houston who faced the players bench. “I believe in honoring the American flag and supporting all of those who sacrifices protect the many freedoms we have in this country, including the right to have differences of opinion,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement.
Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions
Like other NFL owners, Atlanta’s Arthur Blank had already gone on the record denouncing Trump’s remarks on Twitter. During the anthem, Blank joined his players on the sideline, locking arms, as did Detroit’s owner, Martha Ford, and her three daughters. Rico Lavelle, who performed the anthem, took a knee at the conclusion of the song and raised his fist.
Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts
Players on both teams who either knelt or locked arms did not get a positive reception: the crowd in Indianapolis booed loudly to protest the protest. The Browns had around 20 players kneeling while the owners of the team, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, said in a statement that “We must not let misguided, uninformed and divisive comments from the president or anyone else deter us from our efforts to unify.”
Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills
Five-time Pro Bowler Von Miller was among several Broncos players who knelt, while Garett Bolles and Virgil Green stood with their fists in the air. Several Buffalo Bills players had their arms around each other, while some players knelt with their arms interlocked. Bills running back LeSean McCoy stretched during the national anthem, according to local media reports. “I can’t stand and support something where our leader of this country is … acting like a jerk, angry and upset about NFL players protesting in a peaceful manner,” McCoy said after the game.
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram were among a group of ten teammates on the Saints who stayed on the bench during the anthem. The Panthers stood for the anthem, as they have since the protests began last season. The Panthers’ Julius Peppers was not on the field during the anthem. Later, he said he stood by his decision to skip the anthem, saying “this was not about disrespecting the military, disrespecting the flag, police, first responders, none of that. It was about me making a decision as a man on my own two feet.” Of Trump, he said “I felt like he attacked our brothers, my brothers in the league. So I felt like it was appropriate to stand up with them and stay in the locker room.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
Although all of Vikings stood during the anthem, the entire team, along with its owners, stood with their arms linked. Tampa Bay had two players kneel during the anthem, DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans. “The Buccaneers recognize every individual’s constitutional right to freedom of speech, which is crucial to the American way of life that we cherish,” the team said in a statement. “We are equally committed to the principles of inclusivity and respect for differing points of view that should be afforded to all Americans.”
Cincinnati Bengals at Green Bay Packers
Packers starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Bengals starting quarterback Andy Dalton were among the players on both teams who stood and locked their arms on their sidelines. Three Packers players sat during the national anthem.
Oakland Raiders at Washington Redskins
The entire offensive line of the Oakland Raiders, the only line in the NFL made up entirely of African-American players, was joined by virtually the entire team in kneeling or sitting during the anthem. In one of the more dramatic displays by teams on Sunday, the Raiders were joined across the field by the Redskins who stood with linked arms while some players knelt. As in some other cities, some fans in attendance at FedEx Field could be heard booing the players while they sat.