DETROIT - Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank locked arms with players and coaches on the field during the National Anthem Sunday in Detroit. Two players also kneeled during the anthem.
Blank, front office executives, players, and coaches all linked arms at Ford Field. Blank stood with Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, giving them both hugs after the anthem.
Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe, two defensive linemen, were kneeling during the national anthem.
Players and coaches from the Detroit Lions linked arms as well. Eight or more players for the Lions kneeled during the anthem as well.
Players and teams are reacting after President Trump made comments over the weekend about players kneeling or otherwise protesting during the national anthem. Trump suggested owners release players who engage in that form of protest.
"We are at our very best when we are working together, building unity and including everyone’s voice in a constructive dialogue," said Blank in a statement on Saturday. "Creating division or demonizing viewpoints that are different than our own accomplishes nothing positive and undermines our collective ability to achieve the ideals of our democracy. The NFL has historically been a strong catalyst for positive change and I’m proud of the way our players, coaches and staff use that platform to give back to our community and strive to be good citizens making a positive impact on this and future generations.”
Football fans are speaking out strongly on both sides.
"I just saw a sense of unity,” said football fan Lou Clybourn. "The guys really stood up for what they believed in and I stand for that.”
Some football fans watching the game at Stats said they support the players taking a knee for racial injustice and freedom of speech.
“You have to have your voice,” said football fan David Centrella. “The players want to unify and send a message, have at it.”
But not everyone agrees. Marine Corps veteran, David Pennucci said he watches footfall for the sport not political views.
“They’re disrespecting the flag, they’re disrespecting those that died for this country,” said football fan David Pennucci. “They’ve got the freedom to express their views because of the men that died for this country.”
“There are other ways that you can give a stance and give a say and I don’t think it should be through our national anthem,” said football fan Cori Dulmage.
The president tweeting Sunday his approval of locking arms, while still denouncing players who took a knee. Some said its not the presidents place and he should not get involved.
“We have a whole bunch of stuff in the United States and even outside of the United States that is going on that needs to be focused on,” said football fan Jaquam McCoy.
In Sunday's first NFL game, some players from the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars knelt during the national anthem and others linked arms before their game in London.