Many Vikings players, along with Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf and General Manager Rick Spielman, formed a chain on the sideline Sunday as nearly all players hooked arms during the national anthem, two days after President Donald Trump called for NFL owners to fire players for protesting during “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
Vikings players, who all remained standing during the anthem, then took the field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Tampa Bay receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson were among the few kneeling during the anthem.
The Vikings and about half of all NFL teams, along with Commissioner Roger Goodell through individual statements, condemned Trump’s remarks. Vikings players’ linking of arms, signifying unity, was another statement from the Vikings organization.
Just before kickoff, the Wilf family joined the chorus of NFL owners with a statement saying “rather than making divisive comments, we believe in promoting thoughtful, inspiring conversation that unifies our communities. We are proud of our players, coaches and staff for the important role they play in our community.”
Up until late Sunday morning, the Vikings deferred reporters to Goodell’s statement, which also called Trump’s remarks “divisive.”
The demonstrations continued outside of the stadium on Sunday, where about 70 protesters, some holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” rallied near 6th street.
Rachel Myers and Laquita Williams said they were moved to demonstrate for the first time because of Trump’s statements against the athletes.
“It’s so obviously racist,” Williams said. “Enough is enough.”
Most Vikings fans walked around the protesters with no issue, some offering fist bumps. But one said, “White lives matter, too,” and others yelled, “Go home!”
While the group knelt in silence during the national anthem and kickoff about noon, a male driver leaned out his car window and shouted expletives at the demonstrators.
Shortly after noon, the group marched to Elliot Park.
During a campaign rally for an Alabama GOP senator on Friday, Trump said NFL owners should fire players for taking a knee during the national anthem. He said fans should “leave the stadium” if they want to see the protests stop. The NFL demonstrations gained steam when Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback formerly of the 49ers and now a free agent, garnered attention for refusing to stand for the national anthem last season, citing oppression of people of color in the United States.
The Vikings organization and players remained mostly quiet on social media. Running back Bishop Sankey called Trump’s comments a “shame and disgrace” on his Twitter account.
Trump’s comments Friday weren’t his only about American sports over the weekend. After Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry said Friday he didn’t want to attend the White House visit scheduled to honor their NBA title, Trump took to Twitter to say Curry’s invitation was “withdrawn.”
Staff writer Chao Xiong contributed to this report.