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Players kneel, lock arms during first NFL game since Trump slammed players

The Baltimore Ravens’ Terrell Suggs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Mike Evans lent their star power to the national anthem protests as NFL players and coaches kneeled, raised fists or locked arms in unity before their Sunday games.

Ahead of the morning game in London and 1 p.m. ET games, players from several teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins, took knees during the anthem. With the exception of one player, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t even take the field until the anthem was over.

Their protests came as President Donald Trump renewed his criticism of athletes taking a knee during the national anthem. In Sunday morning tweets, he slammed the league’s ratings and said players should be fired or suspended for such protests.

The tweets came the morning after Trump took on two of the country’s most popular sports leagues by withdrawing the White House invitation for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors and by calling for NFL owners to fire any “son of a bitch” who “disrespects our flag.”

“What you just saw was a variety of responses with the theme of unity,” an NFL front office source told CNN. “All across the league, owners, coaches and players came together to decide what was best for them.”

The source added, “If Trump thought he could divide the NFL, he was wrong.”

Here’s who’s been taking a stand Sunday:

Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions

Team owners Arthur Blank of the Falcons and Martha Firestone Ford of the Lions joined their teams on the sidelines, locking arms with their players.

Detroit singer Rico Lavelle closed out his rendition of the anthem by taking a knee and holding his microphone aloft in his fist.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Minnesota Vikings

While both teams locked arms along the sidelines, Buccaneers star wide receiver Mike Evans and his counterpart DeSean Jackson knelt with their hands over their hearts. Coach Dirk Kover stood with his hand over his heart. The crowd applauded once “The Star-Spangled Banner” concluded.

Pittsburgh Steelers

As coach Mike Tomlin promised, the Steelers didn’t take the field for the national anthem. But offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a former captain in the Army and ex-Ranger, stood in the tunnel, hand over heart, as the anthem played.

Tomlin had said before the game his squad would remain in the locker room.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: 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 by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 24: 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 by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Baltimore Ravens vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Six-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ Suggs was atop the list of Ravens players taking a knee before the game in London. Alongside him was retired Ravens legend Lewis, who locked arms with wide receiver Mike Wallace and linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Other coaches and players locked arms during the anthem.

At least a dozen Jaguars took knees during the anthem, including defensive standouts Calais Campbell and Jalen Ramsey, as well as their No. 4 draft pick, running back Leonard Fournette.

The majority of players locked arms, as did the coaching staff and Pakistani-American team owner Shad Khan, who said in a statement that he met with team captains prior to the game to express his support.

“Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms — race, faith, our views and our goals,” he said. “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.”