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Philadelphia Eagles Players, Owner Jeffrey Lurie Link Arms During National Anthem

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, along with two other players, held their right fists in the air during the anthem while linked to the other players.


Philadelphia Eagles players stood arm in arm, joined by their coaches as well as owner Jeffrey Lurie, during the singing of the national anthem at the team's home opener Sunday.

None of the Eagles players kneeled during the anthem, which has become a lightning rod for protests ever since ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled last year. President Donald Trump fanned the flames of the controversy when he urged NFL owners to "fire" any players who kneeled during a campaign rally Friday.

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, along with two other players, held their right fists in the air during the anthem while linked to the other players. Jenkins and other Eagles used the same gesture last year as well.

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Lurie, who lent support to his players in a statement Saturday that seemed to call into question Trump's inflammatory comments from the previous day, could be seen on the television broadcast singing along as a Navy sailor sung the anthem just before the start of the 1 p.m. game.

A couple of the players on the opposing New York Giants did kneel prior to the game. The rest of the Giants also linked arms during the performance.

Meanwhile outside Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia, a small group of people knelt by the front gate as the anthem played over the stadium's PA speakers. One woman held up a sign that read: Thank you Kaep!

A small group of Philadelphia Eagles fans and protesters demonstrated outside Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. They knelt during the national anthem.

Across the NFL, players on numerous teams knelt, held up fists or avoided the anthem throughout the day's slate of games. During the first contest of the day, at the NFL's once-a-year trip to London, a couple dozen players for the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars kneeled.

In Chicago, all but one member of the Pittsburgh Steelers — former Army Ranger and Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva — stayed off the field for the anthem.

The games continued what became an intense weekend in the world of sports as some of the country's best-known athletes clashed with Trump on Twitter for Trump's instigation about kneeling during the anthem. Several NFL owners then weighed in Saturday evening, including Lurie.

He said in a statement that he supports his players as "they take their courage, character and commitment into our communities to make them better or to call attention to injustice."

"I can attest to the great respect they have for the national anthem and all it represents," he went on to say in the prepared statement. "The best of us lend our compassion and determination to the aid of others."

At an Alabama political rally Friday and in tweets Saturday, Trump criticized the owners for allowing the demonstrations.

"If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!" Trump said in two  tweets Saturday.

He also on Saturday uninvited NBA superstar Stephen Curry from visiting the White House to celebrate the Golden State Warriors' championship win. The president said the point guard's "hesitation" over the invite was to blame. The Warriors later said the entire team wouldn't come to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Trump's war over the anthem coincided with an increasingly tense game of chicken with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

Silent protests during the national anthem have been a hot button issue in the NFL since Kaepernick took a knee during the 2016 pre-season.

Kaepernick and players said they've sat, kneeled or held up fists during the anthem in response to police brutality in minority communities and other inequalities in the United States. Players in other professional sports have also joined in on the dissent.

Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to protest during the Star Spangled Banner when he took a knee before a matchup against the Texas Rangers on Saturday.

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Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins was the first Bird to protest during the anthem, raising a fist during the 2016 season opener. This year, he called NFL owners "cowards" for not signing a released Kaepernick to a contract.

Several of Jenkins' teammates have shown support for his demonstration. Jenkins plans to continue raising his fist for the season.

Jenkins has not commented on the president's declarations, but other players have.

Rookie cornerback Sidney Jones asked of the president: "How did we let this dude get in office...we knew he was like this."

Wide receiver Torrey Smith said "patriotism goes beyond a flag and an anthem." He called Trump the "most divisive person in this entire country."

"If a person wants the privilege of being the POTUS he must not disrespect every minority group in the country and say stupid things," he said in one Twitter message.

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