Many players took a knee to protest not social injustice in this country, but President Trump's harsh rhetoric against NFL players who have knelt during the National Anthem in protest of social injustice.
The players' protest Sunday was directed at Trump, who at a political rally Friday in Alabama, called such activists "sons of b------'' and said they should be "fired.''
"It’s the fact that our President is sitting up there saying words that he shouldn’t be using and calling guys’ words that he shouldn’t be using because you’re the leader of the United States,'' said Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
"We felt like President Trump’s speech was an assault on our most cherished right, freedom of speech,'' said pass-rushing linebacker Von Miller. "Collectively, we felt like we had to do something for this game, if not any other game, if not in the past, in the future. At this moment in time, we felt like, as a team, we had to do something. We couldn’t just let things go. I have a huge respect for the military, our protective services and everything. I’ve been to Afghanistan, I’ve met real-life superheroes. It wasn’t any disrespect to them, it was for our brothers that have been attacked for things that they do during the game, and I felt like I had to join them on it.''
Almost as many players, didn't kneel during the National Anthem, choosing to stand as always because they believe the moment was meant to honor the United States military and those who fought to protect our country.
“I feel like it’s my duty to stand,'' said Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe. "I wish I could do more. My ideal is we can all have our own opinion and it’s still fine. I’ve talked about this a hundred times. We can have completely different views on life but we’re the best of friends.’’
Others took a knee for the National Anthem, but weren't sure if it was worth it.
“With the kneeling, it’s not going to help because nothing we do -- our people have been fighting for years in this country and we’ve been fighting for rights and we still haven’t got it,'' said running back Jamaal Charles. "So all the kneeling is still not going to change nothing.’’
This country is so complicated, it can get confusing. Wolfe backed Trump's overall message that people should stand at attention during the National Anthem, but he no longer backs Trump as he did during last year's presidential campaign.
"I thought he was going to be a great leader,'' Wolfe said. "I thought he was going to lead, put people in place to do the job right and get things done. I thought that was the problem with the leadership of this country, we weren’t putting people in the right places to get the jobs done that needed to be done. And I thought they were going to get me a little tax break. That’s not been happening. I’m really disappointed with the way he’s been acting, that’s just the way it is. I was disappointed with the way Obama was acting. You’re going to be disappointed with the President, that’s just the way it is.’’
Roughly half the Broncos’ players and several staffers took a knee during the playing of the National Anthem here Sunday prior to their game against the Buffalo Bills.
Several Bills players kneeled as well.
Several Broncos, maybe half the team, kneeling during playing of National Anthem. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) September 24, 2017
Chris Harris Jr. kneeling and raising right first. Virgil Green standing with raised right fist. Adam Gotsis kneeling. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) September 24, 2017
Earlier Sunday, Jacksonville Jaguars players locked arms during the National Anthem prior to the start of the team's third regular season game against the Baltimore Ravens in London.
Several of them kneeled with their arms locked, including Jaguars owner Shahid Khan.
Many NFL players around the league made varied forms of demonstrations during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner – the entire Pittsburgh Steelers’ team with the exception of former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva stayed in their locker room -- in protest of President Trump’s strong comments Friday.
The gesture comes less than 7 hours after President Trump tweeted the following about players kneeling during the anthem:
If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
...NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
Trump said fans should leave when they see even one player disrespect the flag. He also called players who make demonstrations “sons of b------,’’ and said NFL owners should fire them for making a demonstration.
Broncos’ chief executive officer Joe Ellis issued a statement Saturday night supporting his players for taking a stand on social issues.
Our players have shown a tremendous commitment to raising awareness for important societal issues by using their platform in a positive way,’’ Ellis stated. “In addition to their hard work off the field, we have great admiration for their dedication to making our team the absolute best it can be. They’ve made incredible sacrifices to reach this level, and we recognize they give their all to our team and our fans each and every day.As an organization, we could not be more proud, appreciative and grateful for our players. We’ll continue to support them and work together to advocate for values of respect, diversity and inclusion.