More than 20 NFL players kneeled during the American national anthem at Wembley in response to inflammatory comments from American President Donald Trump.
The Jacksonville Jaguars v Baltimore Ravens game is the first since Trump said players who kneel during the Star Spangled Banner, which is played before kick-off, should be fired.
Jaguars owner Shahid Khan – who donated $1million to to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee last year – locked arms with players Marcedes Lewis and Telvin Smith in a show of support for his team.
More than 20 NFL players kneeled during the American national anthem at Wembley
Kneeling Ravens players included Super Bowl-winner Terrell Suggs and Mike Wallace, and they were joined by the likes of Calais Campbell, Leonard Fournette and Dante Fowler Jr from the Jaguars.
All players were on their feet during the rendition of God Save the Queen.
Shortly after, the Ravens released a statement, with owner Steve Bisciotti saying: ‘We recognise our players’ influence. We respect their demonstration and support them 100 per cent. All voices need to be heard. That’s democracy in its highest form.’
With a further 13 NFL games to take place on Sunday, the London game set the tone for a day of expected player protests.
On Friday, at a rally in Alabama, President Trump blasted NFL players who kneel during the Star Spangled Banner. ‘That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,’ he said.
‘Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, “Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Out! He’s fired”,’ he added to wild applause.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a personal friend of President Trump, on Sunday responded in forthright fashion. ‘I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday,’ he said.
‘There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics. I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal.
‘Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.’
Many NFL owners reacted to the comments on Saturday. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said players who kneel during the anthem are ‘smart young men of character’.
San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York labelled Trump’s comments as ‘callous and offensive’. ‘Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players,’ said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, began the protest in response to police brutality. He kneeled during the American national anthem alongside team-mate Eric Reid during the final preseason game of 2016.
‘Once again, I’m not anti-American,’ Kaepernick said. ‘I love America. I love people. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to help make America better. I think having these conversations helps everybody have a better understanding of where everybody is coming from.’
Kaepernick, who took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, is still a free agent after being cut at the end of