Donald Trump vs. NFL: What Teams Did During the National Anthem After the President Criticized Players For Kneeling

At a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, on Sept. 22, 2017, President Donald Trump took aim at the National Football League by calling on team owners to fire players who choose to take a knee during the national anthem.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a b**ch off the field right now, out, he’s fired,” the president exclaimed in front of a cheering crowd.

Well, NFL players, coaches, and owners had their chance to respond to those remarks before the games were played a few days later. Many teams decided to stand with their arms locked as a sign of unity during the anthem, while others went ahead with protests that we have not seen before. Here’s a look at the different demonstrations several teams and players took part in before the games as well as what President Trump thought of them.

Alejandro Villanueva was only Pittsburgh Steelers player to come out of the tunnel during national anthem

Alejandro Villanueva #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stands by himself in the tunnel for the national anthem.

Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburgh Steelers | Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

One of the most talked-about demonstrations was the one that took place at Soldier Field prior to the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers game. Former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who served three tours in Afghanistan, was the only player on his team to emerge from the tunnel during the national anthem. After the image of him standing alone with his hand over his heart circulated, sales for the army vet’s jersey skyrocketed.

However, Villanueva later explained that his presence outside the tunnel at the time was accidental.

“Unfortunately, I threw (my teammates) under the bus, unintentionally,” he said. “Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself, I feel embarrassed. We as a team tried to figure it [what protest to do] out. Obviously we butchered it.”

None of the Seattle Seahawks or Tennessee Titans were on field for anthem

The colorguard presents the American Flag as the bench of the Tennessee Titans remains empty during the national anthem prior to a game between the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks at Nissan Stadium on September 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The colorguard at the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks game| Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Not one member of the Seattle Seahawks or the Tennessee Titans came out of the locker room until after the singing of the anthem concluded.

Unlike other stadiums around the league where some fans booed over such demonstrations, the fans in Nashville remained completely silent while Meghan Linsey sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Kansas City Chiefs’ Justin Houston knelt, faced crowd during ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’

Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs is seen taking a knee during the National Anthem before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers on September 24, 2017 in Carson, California.

Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs | Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

While multiple players on the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs sideline chose to kneel, Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston decided to do something different with his protest.

Instead of taking a knee and facing the flag, Houston knelt down and turned away from the field to face the crowd during the national anthem.

Players from several teams sat on bench during the national anthem

Green Bay Packers players sit in protest during the national anthem prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lambeau Field on September 24, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Green Bay Packers players sit in protest | Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Many players from several teams across the league opted not stand or kneel, but to sit down during the singing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Some of those players who chose to do so included Martellus Bennett, Kevin King, and Lance Kendricks of the Green Bay Packers; Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram of the New Orleans Saints; and the Oakland Raiders offensive linemen.

Buffalo Bills’ LeSean McCoy continued stretches, warmups during anthem

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy ignored the fact that the anthem was being sung as he appeared on the field and continued to stretch and do pre-game warmups during the song. He did take a bit of heat for that protest including from Bills legend and Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.

“I like LeSean McCoy, don’t get me wrong, but I totally, 100 percent disagree with what he did,” Kelly said. “You want to kneel? Fine. But when you go and do what he did yesterday, that sort of bummed me out. And I lost a lot of respect for him.”

Miami Dolphins players wore ‘#IMWITHKAP’ T-shirts

Jordan Phillips #97 of the Miami Dolphins wears a t-shirt in support of former quarterback Colin Kaepernick before a game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on September 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Jordan Phillips of the Miami Dolphins wears a t-shirt in support of  Colin Kaepernick. | Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Prior to the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets game at MetLife Stadium, several Dolphins players wore T-shirts which read, “#IMWITHKAP.” The message was of course in support of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the protest of taking a knee during the anthem in 2016.

The New York Jets meanwhile were left in a difficult position as to how to protest because of acting team owner Christopher Johnson’s brother, Woody, who is a friend of Trump’s, and who the president appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Britain.

For the anthem, the acting owner decided to stand on the field and lock arms with his team. Following the game, Christopher said that he was “disappointed” in the president’s remarks but did not want to comment further on the subject.

Entire Dallas Cowboys team took a knee prior to the singing of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’

The Dallas Cowboys link arms before the National Anthem at the start of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.

The Dallas Cowboys link arms before the National Anthem. | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Following the weekend protests, people were wondering if the demonstrations would continue into the Monday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals. They did.

The Cowboys, along with team owner and known Trump supporter Jerry Jones, all took a knee as a group before the anthem. They then stood arm-in-arm for the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

President Trump tweets about demonstrations

It’s no surprise that the president took to Twitter after the demonstrations to react to what he saw with a series of tweets.

As for the Cowboys’ demonstration, Trump first tweeted about the team, which played in the Cardinals home stadium, being booed before the anthem began.

The Cowboys, however, had taken a knee prior to the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but stood when it was being performed. Trump clarified this in a subsequent tweet.

Finally, on Sept. 27, 2017, Trump took to Twitter again to say that he had a conversation with Jones about players standing during the anthem.

Follow Michelle Kapusta on Twitter @philamichelle.

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