The impact of President Donald Trump’s polarizing comments in regards to NFL players protesting the national anthem made its way to Foxboro.
Nearly 20 players from the New England Patriots took a knee during the playing of Sunday's anthem, as a loud chorus of boos rained down from the Gillette Stadium crowd both before the anthem began and again after its conclusion.
Tom Brady could be seen linking arms with several players, including Philip Dorsett and Matthew Slater. Slater was inactive for the game.
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Among the Patriots who took a knee were Devin McCourty, Trey Flowers, Brandin Cooks, Brandon Bolden, James White, Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Alan Branch, Duron Harmon, Brandon King, Lawrence Guy, Jordan Richards, Deatrich Wise Jr., Adam Butler, Johnson Bademosi and Malcom Brown.
“I’ve got a lot of love for my teammates,” Brady said after the game when asked about the booing. “I mean, we go through a lot together. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I don’t think it’s easy to play this sport. I mean, there’s a lot of guys that sacrifice a lot. I think you have a lot of respect for the guys who play, not only your own teammates but guys you play against. I mean, without them, it’s not a great game.
“So, it’s like I said. I believe in all of us coming together.”
The entire Houston Texans team stood along their sideline as everyone was locked arm in arm. No players could be seen kneeling.
“To be honest, it’s one of those things where you want to stand with your brothers, kneel with your brothers and be by their side,” Cooks said. “One statement I would just like to make is that a lot of people think we’re disrespecting the flag and the military, but my father and uncle were Marines. I have the utmost respect for the men and women that fight for our freedom. I feel conflicted in a sense because I have no courage to do something like that, so I understand the magnitude that they’re fighting across the world for our freedom.
“The message we’re trying to send is that we want respect and unity, and there’s only so many ways that you can do it. We decided before the game that we were going to do it and I’m glad we went through with it.”
Speaking at a political rally in Huntsville, Alabama, on Friday night, Trump called on NFL owners to fire players who disrespected 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!”
Both Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Texans owner Bob McNair issued statements in response to Trump’s comments – along with many other owners throughout the league, who have been uniform in condemning the president’s line of thinking.
“People come from all different backgrounds and I believe they do what they believe is right,” New England offensive tackle Nate Solder said. “And I totally support them. There’s a lot of craziness outside of this locker room, but inside of this locker room, we truly lock arms. We love each other. This is a great, great environment.”
Other teams around the league reacted to the president’s comments as well.
The Pittsburgh Steelers remained in their locker room during the national anthem prior to their game at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears. One player, Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva – who served in the U.S. Army – emerged from the locker room and was present for the singing of the anthem.
Numerous players from the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars knelt or locked arms during the national anthem at Wembly Stadium in London prior to this morning’s game. Jaguars owner Shad Khan, a native of Pakistan, locked arms with team captains Marcedes Lewis and Telvin Smith.
Several players from the Miami Dolphins donned t-shirts with the caption “#IMWITHKAP,” a nod to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepnernick is widely seen as the leader of the anthem protest movement, which he sparked by sitting on the bench during the playing of the anthem for a preseason game in 2016.