Trump Takes On NFL: Seahawks, Titans Collaborate On Pregame Display
The Seahawks and Titans yesterday "did not take the field for the playing of the national anthem," making it the "only game where neither team was on the field for the anthem," according to a front-page piece by Bob Condotta of the SEATTLE TIMES. Players from both teams had "spoken Saturday and knew the plans of each other." Seahawks CB Richard Sherman said that "many ideas were batted around" in what he "estimated were at least three-and-a-half hours of talks on Saturday." Sherman said that the "goal was to show unity." Sherman: "We wanted to do our best to not ostracize our guys, any of our individuals." He also noted one reason the team decided not to come out for the anthem is that that "used to be the norm -- players were typically not on the field for the anthem prior to the events of September 11, 2001" (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/25). Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin said that the team "consulted with Titans players up until a couple hours before kickoff to coordinate the statement the teams would be making before the game" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 9/25). Titans TE Delanie Walker said, "We had a group text message with the Seattle Seahawks. We sat down and started talking about it as a team. The head coaches got involved and we came up with a solution that would be perfect for everybody, and that was staying in the locker room." He added, "For a long time we’ve been united playing with one another -- all races. That’s what we’re trying to show, that we’re united and you can’t separate us” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/25).
MATTER OF TIMING: NBC's Michele Tafoya reported the Raiders "wanted to stay in the locker room during the national anthem, but they couldn't because the pregame timings in primetime are different from those in daytime games." The team would have "forfeited the coin toss, their second half option and they would’ve been in danger of a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty” ("SNF," NBC, 9/24).
Many other teams responded to Trump's comments yesterday. Here are a sampling of what some clubs did:
- In Chicago, Rick Morrissey notes many Bears players "locked arms in solidarity during the national anthem" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/25). Also in Chicago, Patrick Finley notes Bears Chair George McCaskey and coach John Fox "addressed the team Saturday night, telling players they supported whatever they wanted to do -- as long as it showed team unity." Bears LB Danny Trevathan said that McCaskey "told players he wouldn’t recommend a protest but encouraged them to act united" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/25). In Chicago, JJ Stankevitz notes Bears players said that the message from McCaskey and Fox was "well-received." Players "felt like the team’s ownership, management and coaching staff had their back." The Bears "saw President Trump’s comments as an attempt to divide them and the rest of the players in the league, so the message they wanted to send was one of unity." Whatever the Bears did yesterday, the "point was to do it as a unified team" (CSNCHICAGO.com, 9/24).
- In St. Paul, John Shipley in a front-page piece notes the Vikings "stood arm in arm for the anthem for the first time this season" in what was called a team decision. Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph said that the team stood because they "also respect the flag and we respect what it stands for, and we respect the men and women who serve our country." Rudolph: "That’s why we did what we did today. The leaders on our team decided that was the best thing to do." Shipley: "Whatever they might think of kneeling during the anthem, Vikings players clearly feel that race is a big part of the controversy" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/25).
- In N.Y., Hoffman & Booth write the Bills had "one of the more unusual demonstrations, with the entire team walking about 10 yards onto the field together before having several players kneel" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25). In Buffalo, Kimberley Martin writes under the header, "Bills, NFL Deliver Powerful Message To Trump" (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/25).
- USA TODAY's Josh Peter notes Chiefs WR Chris Conley, who "knelt during the national anthem" yesterday, said that "two teammates told him they disagreed with his form of protest but respected his right to do it." Conley also said that "one of the teammates said his acceptance stemmed from a pregame meeting, during which players voiced their opinions about the protests aimed at raising awareness of social injustice" (USA TODAY, 9/25).
- In Charlotte, Jourdan Rodrigue in a front-page piece notes Panthers DE Julius Peppers "stayed in the locker room" during the national anthem. He "did not kneel, because he wanted it to be clear that he was not, in his words, 'disrespecting the flag.'" When the anthem finished, he "took the field without fanfare." He did "not discuss his plan with teammates beforehand." Peppers said of President Trump's comments, "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" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/25).