As a famous international singer began the National Anthem at Wembley Stadium, about a dozen players took a knee on the Jaguars sideline, flanked by teammates who were locking arms. On one end, Owner Shad Khan was between players, locking arms in solidarity. All in response to President Trump’s comments over the weekend that an NFL owner, which he was denied becoming at least twice, should fire players who protest during the anthem.
“It was a privilege to stand on the sidelines with the Jacksonville Jaguars today for the playing of the U.S. national anthem at Wembley Stadium,” Khan said in a statement distributed during the game. “I met with our team captains prior to the game to express my support for them, all NFL players and the league following the divisive and contentious remarks made by President Trump, and was honored to be arm in arm with them, their teammates and our coaches during our anthem.”
It’s not the first time Khan has disagreed with the President, whom he supported during the campaign. Khan was also a loud critic when Mr. Trump signed an executive order limiting immigration to the US from largely Muslim countries.
“Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms – race, faith, our views and our goals,” he continued. “We have a lot of work to do, and we can do it, but the comments by the President make it harder. That’s why it was important for us, and personally for me, to show the world that even if we may differ at times, we can and should be united in the effort to become better as people and a nation.”
Players on the Jaguars were happy to see Khan on the sidelines showing support.
“It shows the kind of owner he is but also the kind of man he is,” LB Telvin Smith said in the post-game presser. Smith didn’t kneel, saying he didn’t want to do it for the first time on foreign soil but if the game was in the US, he’d have knelt.
“It’s not to disrespect the military,” said CB A.J. Bouye saying he and his teammates were trying to bring light to their perceived inequality of treatment in America.
“I lost my mom to cancer. My dad had a gun pointed at him at 6AM one morning because he looked suspicious. He was dropping me off at school. We’re not talking black and white here, we’re talking right and wrong.
Who they called the “Man of the Match” at Wembley, Marcedes Lewis, was very forthright in his support of teammates trying to bring to light to what he called “inequality.”
“Whenever you have the owner behind you, he actually gets it,” Lewis said after locking arms with Khan on the sideline. “I’m from the east side of Long Beach and I’ve been a part of that for a while It’s getting worse, not better and that’s wrong.”
In the locker room, Malik Jackson said he wants people to know that there is inequality in how social justice is applied in America and that’s why he was a part of the protest.
“Stuff like being pulled over driving a nice car because you’re black,” he explained. “Some people are scared to go out. The stuff happening in Chicago. People need to know about that.”
It wasn’t a spontaneous response by the Jaguars players. The captains got together and let Head Coach Doug Marrone and the Jaguars management and coaching staff what they were going to do.
“The captains got together with us last night,” Marrone explained. We wanted to be sure we support each other as a team. The communication was there and it was good.”
“Anytime our owner can be around to show support for the organization is great,” he added. “I never feel like he’s away, even when he’s not in the building.”