A RECORD 27 stars defied Donald Trump by kneeling during the US national anthem before the NFL clash at Wembley between the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Players and staff from both teams – including Ravens legends Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs – took to their knees and locked arms as the Star Spangled Banner was being played ahead of the first of four regular-season games in London this season.
The US president sparked outrage this weekend when he told a crowd in Alabama that players who kneel or protest during the national anthem should be “fired”.
Trump said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b***h off the field right now… he is fired’.”
And the American leader tweeted again today, saying: “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!”
His comments refer to a string of protests by NFL players to highlight racial injustice and police brutality in America.
The movement was started by Colin Kaepernick during a pre-season game for the San Francisco 49ers before the 2016 campaign and has gathered pace across the league.
Kaepernick left the 49ers after last season and is still a free agent with some claiming his protests and political views have put teams off signing him.
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But some say he is simply not good enough to play in the NFL.
Players and teams in America’s professional sports leagues have condemned Trump’s comments in Alabama.
Shad Khan said: “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.
“I met 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 by President Trump, and was honoured to be arm in arm with them, their team-mates and our coaches during our anthem.
“Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms – race, faith, our views and our goals.
“We have a lot of work to do and we can do it, but the comments of the President make it harder.
“That’s why it’s important for us, and personally for me, to show the world that even if we may differ at times, we can and shoudl be united in the effort to become batter people and a nation.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said: “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.”
49ers chief executive Jed York said: “The callous and offensive comments made by the president are contradictory to what this great country stands for.
“Our players have exercised their rights as United States citizens in order to spark conversation and action to address social injustice.”
New England Patriots chairman Robert Kraft said: “I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the president on Friday.
“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.”
In a separate argument, Trump was also called a “bum” on Twitter by basketball superstar LeBron James.
The Cleveland Cavaliers forward James was defending his fellow player Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
Curry said on Friday that he wouldn’t attend the White House to celebrate with the president, which is tradition for champions in North America’s four major sports leagues.
Trump tweeted to say the invite was withdrawn because Curry was “hesitating”.
James then hit out at Trump, tweeting: “U bum, Steph Curry already said he ain’t going!
“So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”