On a day that promised protests unlike any the NFL had ever seen, the first game of the day, kicking off across the Atlantic in London, set the tone.
More than two dozen players on the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens knelt during the anthem. Many more, including Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Jaguars owner Shad Khan, locked arms with their players in a statement of support for their teams.
Khan’s participation in the statement is notable for several reasons; owners have historically sought to remain both literally and figuratively above what takes place on the field, especially when politics are concerned. But Khan donated $1 million to President Donald Trump’s inauguration. He later criticized Trump’s February attempt at a ban of immigrants from Muslim countries.
On the other sideline, the most notable figure kneeling was former Raven Ray Lewis, who’s been sharply critical of the protests begun by former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick during last year’s preseason.
The protests during the anthem were designed to bring attention to racial equality and police brutality. However, President Trump added a new note to the protests on Friday night when he suggested that any player who takes a knee should be fired. Players across the NFL have joined in defiance of the president’s demands, and the result is that protests are likely to be far more widespread than ever before.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.