INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts joined teams from across the NFL on Sunday in kneeling and locking arms during the national anthem in response to “divisive” remarks by President Donald Trump over the weekend.
Trump has spent much of the past several days railing on Twitter and in public speeches against NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality.
If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
On Friday, the president took part of an Alabama rally to suggest NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the anthem.
"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. He’s fired!” Trump said.
Trump’s statements drew a swift response from the NFL, which has largely unified in opposition to the president.
Bigger than football. pic.twitter.com/3nMzaCdOhx
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 24, 2017
On Sunday, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan linked arms with players in protest during the “Star Spangled Banner.” Players from both the Jaguars and their opponents, the Baltimore Ravens, took a knee during the anthem.
The NFL Players Association released a video Saturday called “Unity” in response to Trump, tweeting that, “Wearing an NFL uniform will not come at the expense of our First Amendment right to peacefully protest as citizens.”
A number of NFL team owners, including Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, a close friend of the president, also issued statements condemning Trump’s comments.
— ABC News (@ABC) September 24, 2017
Those owners also included Jim Irsay, who issued the following statement on the Colts website Saturday night:
“I am troubled by the President’s recent comments about our league and our players. Sports in America have the unique ability to bring people from all walks of life and from different points of view together to work toward or root for a common goal, and the Indianapolis Colts are proud to be a part of that tradition in our home city and state.
The vast majority of players in the NFL — especially those who have worn and continue to wear the Horseshoe — have donated millions of dollars to charities, raised money for those affected by recent hurricanes, created charitable foundations, visited schools, mentored students, worked in homeless shelters, cleaned up parks, and put in hours of their personal time toward improving their communities and the lives of those around them.
That’s the spirit in which this nation was founded, and we all need to work tirelessly to bring people together to take on the challenges that face us and give back to the people of our communities. More so than any result on the field, that is a common goal worth rooting for.”
Jimmy and Dee Haslam, owner of the Colts’ Sunday opponents the Cleveland Browns, also issued a statement calling Trump’s comments “divisive.”
“We view our organization, our league and our players as great unifiers of people. Our players, just like so many others across our league, have been honest and thoughtful with their attempt to bring awareness to the issues of inequality and social injustice. We were incredibly moved by the meaningful and powerful dialogue they initiated within our organization when they spoke of their intent to unify and not be disrespectful while using familiar and important terms like one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Their intent is to create positive and unifying change and that was demonstrated well by the unity they led prior to our home opener. They have continued to prove this dedication to unite diverse members of our community throughout this past month by establishing direct conversation with the Cleveland Police Department and creating a plan to work together in our neighborhoods. We are also proud of their many other significant efforts in our city throughout the year that are done quietly to improve the lives of others.
We must not let misguided, uninformed and divisive comments from the President or anyone else deter us from our efforts to unify. Our stance in support of the liberties of peaceful, personal expression afforded to our players and all Americans will remain strong, and we will continue to encourage our players to respectfully use their earned platform to inspire positive change in our nation and throughout society.”
At least nine Colts players knelt during the anthem, while players from both the Colts and the Cleveland Browns locked arms during the anthem before their game in Indianapolis on Sunday.
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