Pittsburgh Steelers 'will not be on the field' during national anthem after Donald Trump comments
The coach of NFL side Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin, confirmed ahead of his team's game against the Chicago Bears that they will not be on the field during the national anthem following President Donald Trump's comments.
Tomlin gave his comments before the game saying: "We’re chasing something special here in 2017 and we’re not going to play politics.
The decision came hours after U.S. President Donald Trump called on fans to boycott teams that do not discipline players who protest. Tomlin added:
" "We’re football players. We’re football coaches. We’re not participating in the anthem today. Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, but to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn’t have to choose. "
"If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t have to be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn’t be separated from his team-mate who chooses not to.
"So we’re not participating today. That’s our decision. We’re going to be 100 per cent. We came here to play a football game. That’s our intent.”
When pressed to clarify on what that meant Tomlin said "We will not be on the field."
Tomlin's comments came after some players and staff from the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens kneeled during the anthem ahead of their match at Wembley.
Jacksonville Jaguar players show their protest during the National Anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England.Getty Images
In an early morning post on Twitter on Sunday, Trump pressed ahead with his feud about players who refuse to stand for the anthem
"If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast," Trump wrote. "Fire or suspend!"
In a second tweet, Trump, who is spending the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, said that the "league should back" fans who are upset about the protests.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stirred a polarizing national debate in 2016 after refusing to stand during pre-game renditions of the "Star Spangled Banner" to protest police violence against African-Americans. Several players have made similar gestures of protest since then.
At a political rally in Alabama on Friday, Trump suggested any protesting football player was a "son of a b***h" and should lose his job.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now... He is fired," Trump said on Friday at a rally for Alabama Senate Republican candidate Luther Strange.
The union representing professional football players also rejected Trump's comment, saying it would defend their right to freedom of expression.
"This union will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens," tweeted DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the National Football League Players Association, referring to the First Amendment's guarantee of the right to free speech.
Additional reporting via Reuters.