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The Seattle Seahawks chose to stay in the locker room during the national anthem Sunday before their game with the Tennessee Titans. It comes after President Donald Trump over the weekend called on NFL owners to fire players for conducting such protests.
The Seahawks released a statement on Twitter.
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. We remain committed to continuing to work towards equality and justice for all.
The Players of the Seattle Seahawks
The players came out of the locker room locked arm-in-arm.
"That's just a statement that (the players) felt they needed to make," said head coach Pete Carroll after the game. "I think it was a classy way to demonstrate your dissent for what happened and I don't think it had any factor in the game at all."
Quarterback Russell Wilson said the team wanted to do something that unified them.
"We believe in love," said Wilson. "The only way we can defeat the hate is by loving people."
Wilson added that it was "sad to see" what Trump said.
Receiver Doug Baldwin after the game directly address President Trump's comments and talked about what he describes as a dangerous time for America.
"For us, as players, directly being called out about not being able to express ourselves, which this great country and many men and women who have sacrificed their lives for us to be able to express ourselves in that way. That's the foundational core of who we are as a country. And for that to be threatened by the man who is at the head of the table for our country, it's a very serious thing." Baldwin said.
Defensive end Michael Bennett, who has sat on the bench during the anthem since preseason, said the demonstration showed the players have compassion for one another.
"It meant everything. I think it was us coming together beyond football and just recognizing as human beings and coming together and something bigger than us," said Bennett.
Cornerback Richard Sherman noted that upset fans booed during the anthem while New England Patriots players were taking a knee.
"They don't see that as disrespect. It's really a strange hypocrisy that we see, but people don't seem to see it when they're doing it," Sherman said, adding that being in the locker room as a team kept any players from being singled out. "So as a team, we wanted to do our best to not ostracize our guys, any of our individuals. Allow them to feel welcomed and not feel uncomfortable."
The Titans also stayed in the locker room.
The singer and guitar player who performed the anthem took a knee at the end of their performance.
During a campaign rally in Alabama Friday, President Trump blasted athletes who do not stand for the anthem. His comments continued over the weekend, including encouraging fans to boycott the NFL.
If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
...our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.Tell them to stand!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
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
...NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
After more players around the league locked arms or knelt during the anthem Sunday, Trump tweeted one was acceptable, the other is not.
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
It won't be known until Monday what effect Trump's comments, or the player protests, might have on the ratings for Sunday's games.
The Seahawks organization released a statement Saturday supporting their players' rights to free speech.
"We fully respect our players' use of their freedom of speech and peaceful action to highlight the existing racial and other divides in our country. Our players completely respect the military and veterans of our country; however they feel these issues need to come to the forefront," the statement read.
The practice of protesting during the anthem began last season when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem. Other players followed suit.
This season, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett has sat for the anthem since the preseason. By the second game, center Justin Britt has stood beside him during the anthem with his hand on Bennett's shoulder. Other players have followed Britt's example, standing beside Bennett.