A group of Ravens players kneeled Sunday following President Donald Trump’s comments on the NFL, in which he said owners should fire players who kneel.
“We recognize our players’ influence,” Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti stated. “We respect their demonstration and support them 100 percent. All voices need to be heard. That’s democracy in its highest form.”
The Ravens-Jaguars game kicked off from London’s Wembley Stadium at 9:30 a.m. ET, making it the first NFL game after the President’s remarks. Thus, there were many eyes on what kind of statement players would make.
The Ravens players who knelt included wide receiver Mike Wallace, outside linebackers Terrell Suggs, Matthew Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, linebacker C.J. Mosley, defensive tackle Carl Davis, defensive back Anthony Levine, cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Marlon Humphrey, safety Tony Jefferson and defensive tackle Willie Henry.
Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who is in London as one of the team’s legends of the game, also knelt in the middle of the group. A large group of Jaguars players also took a knee and others locked arms on the opposite side of the field.
“We stand with our brothers. They have the right to protest and we knelt with them today,” Suggs said. “Non-violent protest is as American as it gets. We knelt with them today to let them know we’re a unified front. There isn’t no dividing us. I guess we’re all sons of [expletive].”
“What happened yesterday went too far,” Wallace added. “I felt strongly about it today so I did what I did. I didn’t need anybody to tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ That’s just how I felt. Sometimes, when you have a platform, you have to do things for the outside world to make a statement. You have to take a stand.”
Wallace said he wasn’t sure whether he would continue to kneel going forward, but felt he would likely do something to express his feelings.
Ravens players also locked arms. Jefferson placed his hand on his heart as he knelt. “I kept my hand on my heart because personally I have family in the military,” he said. “Personally, that was towards comments made.”
After the game, Head Coach John Harbaugh said he agrees with Bisciotti’s statement, and added that it had no impact on what happened during the game. He said there wasn’t a lot of time spent talking about it as a team.
Players talked with each other about their feelings and what action they would take. Tight end Benjamin Watson, who has written a book about race in America, did not kneel and said he was “very emotional this morning, even at chapel service.”
After former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt last season, Watson said he would never kneel during the anthem. He said his decision not to do so Sunday, after the latest comments, was a “very hard decision.”
“A lot of guys were upset by the things President Trump said, they were upset that he would imply that we cannot exercise our personal rights as players,” Watson said. “It was very emotional for all of us, and we all have decisions to make. Some guys kneeled, some guys stood, but rest assured that we all care. We all care about any form of injustice.”
Here’s what other Ravens players had to say about kneeling:
QB Joe Flacco: “We are a brotherhood in this locker room. Each one of us loves each other like a brother and we’re going to support each other through and through.”
WR Jeremy Maclin: “It’s a time where everybody in this country needs to come together – white, black, it doesn’t matter what your race is. It’s unfortunate that the leader of this country doesn’t necessarily see it that way.”
CB Brandon Carr: “In no shape, way or form are we trying to disrespect our country, the flag or anyone that protects us. At the same time, we’re mature enough men and we all come from different walks of life and guys have opinions and voices that need to be heard, not only for themselves but for our communities.”
S Eric Weddle: “We’re a tight-knit group here. We’re a family. We support anyone that has feeling toward a certain subject. The guys that did it, it’s their choice, but we back them 100 percent. They’re our brothers.”