Only one Pittsburgh Steelers player participated in the national anthem before Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger and West Point graduate, stood outside at Soldier Field for the anthem while the other players stayed inside the stadium.
The Chicago Bears stood arm in arm on the other side of the football field.
The protests come after President Donald Trump criticized player protests and called for the NFL to “fire” players who didn’t stand during the national anthem.
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast,” he tweeted. “Fire or suspend!”
Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said the protests are not about disrespect.
"We're not going to play politics. We're football players, we're football coaches," Tomlin said. "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 be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn't be separated from his teammate who chooses not to."
The Associated Press said that about 204 players kneeled or sat out during the anthem on Sunday.
A league official said that players are required to be present for the national anthem, but no fines will be issued to the players.
Photo: Baltimore Ravens players kneel for the American National anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England.
Photo courtesy: Alex Pantling/Getty Images
Publication date: September 25, 2017