The NFL’s Dallas Cowboys heard from the crowd attending a Monday Night Football game as the entire team linked arms and knelt during the US national anthem. President Donald Trump has called kneeling during the anthem disrespectful.
Since bringing up the issue on Friday in Alabama, Trump has tweeted about sports over a dozen times, calling on NFL fans to boycott the sport “until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country,” and suggesting that team owners should fire or suspend players who kneel during the national anthem.
On Monday night, the entire Dallas Cowboys football team, including owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett, lined up on the field, locked arms and took a knee for several moments before the national anthem began to play.
As the team moved back to the sideline and locked arms for the anthem, the crowd at the stadium could be heard booing.
The demonstration was “a display of team unity across the entire organization,” according to the Cowboys spokesman David Helman.
“The decision allowed the Cowboys to make a team statement on the issue – albeit not during the anthem itself,” Helman said in a statement.
The other team on the field, Arizona Cardinals, made a similar gesture by linking arms during the national anthem.
The entire team, including owner Michael Bidwill, stood in the end-zone to “show unity for the ongoing league-wide protests,” said Darren Urban, the senior manager of the Cardinals website.
“The Cardinals players felt strongly about doing something after comments made by President Donald Trump late last week. Joining in the effort seeking equality for minorities, the players came up with the idea to stand during a meeting on Saturday,” Urban said in a statement.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell tweeted on Monday night, congratulating both teams for their “show of unity.”
After San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other players began protesting by kneeling during the anthem in 2016, Jones said he believed in the sanctity of the American flag and felt “very strongly” that players should not use the anthem as a time to protest.
“The forum of the NFL and the forum on television is a very significant thing,” Jones said during an interview with KRLD (105.3 The Fan). “I’m for it being used, in every way we can, to support the great contributors in our society – that is people that have supported America, and the flag. For anybody to use parts of that visibility to do otherwise is really disappointing.”
On Monday, 49ers safety Eric Reid wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times, saying that he became one of the first to join Kaepernick’s protest in order to “make a more powerful and positive impact on the social justice movement.”
“We spoke at length about many of the issues that face our community, including systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system. We also discussed how we could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes in the NFL, to speak for those who are voiceless,” wrote Reid, who is African-American.
President Trump said that the issue of kneeling at football games has “nothing to do with race.”
“It is about respect for our country, flag and national Anthem,” Trump said. “NFL must respect this!”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders also said that Trump was “not talking about race” in his tweets, but “about pride in our country.”
“This isn’t about the President being against anyone,” Huckabee-Sanders told reporters at the White House press briefing on Monday. “This is about the President and millions of Americans being for something; being for honoring our flag, honoring our national anthem, and honoring the men and women who fought to defend it.”