Mike TriplettESPN Staff Writer
LONDON — Three Miami Dolphins players — Kenny Stills, Julius Thomas and Michael Thomas — continued to kneel during the national anthem Sunday before their game against the New Orleans Saints in Wembley Stadium.
The Saints, meanwhile, knelt together as a team before the anthem then stood together during the anthem — a planned show of unity after 10 players sat on the bench last week for the first time. Many players and coaches had their arms interlocked or their hands on shoulders.
A week ago, demonstrations were organized across the NFL in response to President Donald Trump’s criticism of players who kneel during the national anthem.
Drew Brees announced the Saints’ plans earlier this week after team leaders got together and decided it would be “a way to show respect to all.”
Brees has been steadfast in his belief that players should stand during the national anthem. However, Brees also disagreed with Trump’s comments last week and said, “I don’t blame the guys for feeling like they needed to do something as a reaction. … Unfortunately I think he put all athletes, all black athletes, minority athletes, he put ’em in a corner and forced them to take action.”
Saints coach Sean Payton said there was no influence from Saints ownership on the players’ decision.
Safety Kenny Vaccaro, one of the players who sat last Sunday, said he was good with the plan the team came up with.
“I think it’s a good combination of showing unity and also paying tribute to the actual reason why everybody’s taking a knee. It has nothing to do with disrespecting the flag, disrespecting the military,” Vaccaro said.