DENVER — Hundreds of NFL players across the league, including 32 with the Broncos, took a knee for the national anthem on Sunday after President Donald Trump called for players to be fired if they didn’t stand for the anthem.
Some players took a knee, while others stood and locked arms. Three teams decided to avoid the national anthem altogether and stay in the locker room.
The protests left fans divided. More than 5,000 people left their feedback on the FOX31 Facebook page. Thousands of others from both sides of the issue took to Twitter to leave their feedback.
“I am now done with the Broncos. I have for over 28 years supposed them. I just bought a new jacket and other things but haven’t took the tags off. Returning them all Monday. Burning the rest. I’m a veteran. My country and respecting my country comes before football. I’m done with the NFL,” one fan wrote on the Facebook page.
“I’m a die-hard fan that has never felt more disappointed or embarrassed by my team! I think it was so disrespectful to our military,” another one wrote.
“I’m working … usually wear my Broncos stuff … NOT TODAY! Put it in a donation box … won’t support the NFL babies that won’t support our country … ((over paid self centered jerks!))” another person commented.
Some took it a step further and burned their Broncos gear, donated it or threw it away — including some lifelong fans of the team.
“I am a combat veteran. I agree that there is terrible racial injustice in this nation, and I fully support the right to protest. However, disrespect of the flag and national anthem is unacceptable to me,” said James Ryker, who posted a video of him burning Broncos gear.
“The flag represents those who fight for it. The anthem celebrates those who have died for it. Many players state that their protest should not be seen as disrespectful to our troops, but it is.
“Regardless of intent the disrespect of the flag and anthem spits on the graves of those who have carried the flag and died for it.”
But despite the outrage from many fans, Seth Medvin, Strategic Communications Manager with the team, said that out of 22,000 season ticket holders, none have asked for a refund.
Those tickets represent over 70,000 seats.
People supportive of the team and other players across the league also made their voice heard saying that the players have a right to protest.
“It’s their right as Americans to protest. Maybe the President should try to be presidential and not tweet about players in the NFL and NBA. Oh yeah, he wants us to forget about Russia,” a fan commented on Facebook.
“We should be ashamed and embarrassed of our president not our players , they have the right to stand up for what is right,” another fan wrote.
The move comes after Trump criticized some in the NFL on Friday night at a rally in Alabama, saying team owners should fire players for taking a knee during the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired,’” Trump told the Alabama crowd.
Trump later double downed on the claims on Twitter.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do,” Trump tweeted on Saturday.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday called Trump’s comments “divisive” and said they show a “lack of respect” for the league and its players.
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” Goodell said in the statement. “There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month.
“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
Several other teams, including the Broncos, responded by issuing their own statements.
“We could not be more proud, appreciative and grateful for our players,” Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis said in a statement. “We’ll continue to support them and work together to advocate for values of respect, diversity and inclusion.”
Trump responded to them on Sunday morning on Twitter.
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!” he tweeted.