JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A day after more than a dozen players for the Jacksonville Jaguars took a knee during the Star Spangled Banner at a London game the mayor of the team’s city said it’s stupid not to stand for the national anthem but protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a vocal conservative and Jaguars fan, released a statement Monday.
“I stand and cover my heart for the pledge and the anthem. I think it’s stupid to do otherwise,” Curry said. “The U.S. Constitution protects the right for a lot of people to do a lot of stupid things. I am a Constitutional Conservative, so I respect the wisdom of our Founders.”
On Sunday, the Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens were the first teams to take the field following a Friday speech by President Donald Trump, in which he said NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem should be fired. About two dozen players from both teams at the London game kneeled during the U.S. anthem, but other players, coaches and even Jaguars owner Shad Khan locked arms in solidarity with those kneeling.
Khan, who has given money to Trump and other conservative political candidates in the past, released a statement Sunday saying it was a privilege to stand on the sidelines and support his players.
“Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms – race, faith, our views and our goals,” Khan said. “We have a lot of work to do, and we can do it, but the comments by the president make it harder.”
Some fans in Jacksonville, a city that hosts a major Navy base and tends to lean Republican, expressed anger on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, even vowing never to attend another Jaguars game. Others praised Khan for siding with his players.
The newest controversy erupted after Trump criticized the kneeling players to loud applause Friday night at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,’” Trump said.
Only four players in the entire NFL had been observed kneeling or sitting during the anthem two weekends ago, but that number ballooned this past weekend to more than 200.