- Many NFL players kneel in protest
- Trump calls for players to be fired
- Fans and players respond to the debate
As the American national anthem sounded around London’s Wembley Stadium, over 20 players and staff from the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars took a knee to protest against racial and social injustice and also defy US President Donald Trump.
Hours later, their counterparts back in the US followed suit as players throughout the NFL sat or knelt before kickoff. Others opted to link arms, while the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans remained in their locker rooms.
The protests came amidst a flurry of remarks from Trump, who tweeted that “sports fans should never condone players that do not stand … NFL should change policy!”
However, a number of fans at Wembley for Sunday’s game felt the players were within their rights to protest. Of the six supporters randomly interviewed by CNN, only one backed Trump.
“Every American has a right to any opinion they want to hold as long as it’s peaceful,” Nicholas di Santos, an American in London for the Ravens vs. Jaguars game, told CNN Sport.
“If they feel people are being treated unfairly and they want to start a peaceful protest to start a national conversation that sparks more interest in it, then they certainly do [have the right].”
Shyanne Hafford, a Ravens fan, was in agreement.
“NFL players and generally athletes of televised sports are role models to people on both sides of the debate.
“For them to kneel, it’s a peaceful protest, rather than violent ones you see on the news and social media. They definitely have a right to do that, but they should keep in mind those that are on opposite sides that they look up to.”
‘Throwing their hands up to the constitutions’
However, Ravens fan Nolande Kirby, who had traveled from Baltimore for the game, was more critical of the kneeling players.
“I believe everyone who was brought up in the United States of America should honor what was vowed in the United States of America,” she said.
“We have the pledge of allegiance; we have certain things we were supposed to do because that is how we were brought up traditionally to do so.
“Anyone not following those traditions is throwing their hands up to the constitution and everything we were brought up to honor.”
The debate has intensified after Trump said NFL team owners should fire or suspend players for kneeling during the national anthem.
“Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable,” Trump wrote in a separate tweet.