BUFFALO, N.Y. (CBS4) – Several Denver Broncos players took a knee during the national anthem before Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
Thirty-two members of the Broncos, in total, were counted kneeling, with several more Bills players doing the same, with even more holding a fist in the air or resting a hand on the shoulder of a kneeling teammate or locking arms with others.
Other players throughout the NFL followed suit, while all of the Pittsburgh Steelers decided instead to stay in the locker room during the anthem.
Ahead of their game in London, England on Sunday, players from both the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars knelt.
The kneeling comes in the wake of President Donald Trump saying Friday that all players should be fired for their protests. Trump reiterated his remarks on Twitter on both Saturday and Sunday.
“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 our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED.”
Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, on Instagram, said that President Trump was “acting and speaking like a child.”
Protesting during the anthem isn’t new for the Broncos, but it is on this scale. Last season, linebacker Brandon Marshall took a knee ahead of seven games last season, he says to protest social injustice in America.
He ended his protest in Oakland, “not because everything is perfect, or because I’m changing my stance on things,” he posted to Instagram at the time, “but because of my hope for what we can become.”
For the 1st half of the season, I’ve been taking a knee for the National Anthem to raise awareness for social injustice and to start conversation about what all of us can do to make a positive change. I’m encouraged with the many productive discussions and progress that has taken place as the Denver Police department has decided to review its use of force policy. I’m proud to have joined so many of my peers throughout sports who’ve also made their own statements. Going forward, I will be standing for the National Anthem—not because everything is perfect, or because I'm changing my stance on things. But because of my hope for what we can become. Just because I am standing doesn't mean the work will end. There’s much work to be done. I’ll continue to recognize and support organizations that are stepping up as leaders and making a real difference in our community, and I will do my part to be there for those in need. One of those organizations is the Idriss Stelley Foundation, a grassroots organization in the Bay Area that offer free support to victims of police violence. I’ll be standing for them and the family of the late O’Shaine Evans—on Sunday night in addition to making a donation from my Tackle Change program to further the meaningful work of this group. I really appreciate the support from my family, teammates, coaches and fans. I’m grateful for those who have taken the time to hear me out. I’m excited for what all of us can accomplish when we truly work together.
Broncos President of Football Operations and General Manager John Elway said, that “everybody has their right to do what they wish to do, and their beliefs are their beliefs, that’s why we live in this country. We’ll respect that and whatever you want to do is alright with us.”
Elway commented on the issue during a joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers last week. Former 49ers player Colin Kaepernick was the first player to take a stand against racial injustice by kneeling during a preseason game last year.
Since then, Marshall and other players followed suit.
Elway said he’s proud of how Marshall handled his demonstration on and off the field.
“Brandon made a point last year, but he carried it forward,” Elway said. “He didn’t make a stand on the field before the games, he actually went out in the community and did something, and talked to law enforcement, and has gotten involved in the community.”