DETROIT, Mich. -- After President Donald Trump said the NFL should "fire or suspend" players who protest during the national anthem, the focus on Sunday turned to how teams and players around the league would react.
Two Falcons players knelt for the national anthem on Sunday. They were Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe. This is the first time Falcons players have knelt during the anthem. FOX did not show the players kneeling during the broadcast.
Strange times: As Anthem played, Jarrett/Poe took knee, prompting one fan not far from Falcons bench to yell, “Stand up or move to Canada." pic.twitter.com/DSGdxzVUXy— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) September 24, 2017
The other Atlanta Falcons stood arm-in-arm during the anthem on Sunday. Team owner Arthur Blank was on the field with his team during the national anthem, something he does not usually do. Blank stood between star receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman, arms linked.
The Falcons were in Detroit to face the Lions, who also stood arm-in-arm. Eight Lions players also knelt. At the end of the anthem, singer Rico Lavelle knelt as he finished.
Prior to the anthem, the public address announcer asked fans to "celebrate differences as well as what bonds us" with the NFL and the Lions. The P.A. announcer did not ask fans to stand for the anthem.
On Saturday, Blank released a statement in response to Trump's comments:
"We are at our very best when we are working together, building unity and including everyone’s voice in a constructive dialogue," Blank said in a statement. "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.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars locked arms with each other, including the team's owner, and some knelt during the national anthem before their game against the Baltimore Ravens, which was being played in London. Before their game, the Pittsburgh Steelers said they wouldn't participate in the anthem because "we're not going to play politics," head coach Mike Tomlin said.
Last year, the Falcons participated in a unity circle with the New Orleans Saints. It came at a time when the nation was on edge following high-profile cases of police brutality.
Before the current season began, 11Alive asked head coach Dan Quinn about how he would respond to a player if he wished to protest during the national anthem.
"Everything for us we’ll try to discuss as a team," Quinn said.
Read more about the Atlanta Falcons' response to Trump's comments about NFL players who protest:
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that no players knelt during the anthem because the kneeling players were not visible on the FOX broadcast. We have corrected the mistake.
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