Detroit Lions players react to linking arms for national anthem

Eight Lions took a knee; Caldwell issues strong words

DETROIT — Lions players and coaches linked arms during the national anthem before the 30-26 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Ford Field.

Owner Martha Firestone Ford and her daughters were at the center linking arms with the players.

Eight of the Lions took a knee. They included Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tahir Whitehead, Ameer Abdullah, Steve Longa, Jeremiah Ledbetter,  Akeem Spence, A’Shawn Robinson and Cornelius Washington.

Prior to the game, Lions president Rod Wood said the team supported the players. Mrs. Ford issued a statement echoing that thought on Sunday morning.

Reaction from the Lions afterward:

— Eric Ebron  “I just see things differently. Some people might condone it, I don’t. One of my biggest pet peeves is disrespect and I feel like we were disrespected as an organization. It’s not a form of protesting. Like I said, I just don’t deal with disrespect, and I felt like what came out of the mouth of our leader was disrespect.”

— Jim Caldwell: “I’ve been in the league a while and I know the players in this league, there are no SOBs in this league. These are men that work hard, with integrity, they’re involved in our communities, they’re fathers, they’re brothers, and their mothers aren’t what he said they were. Our guys believe in unity, civility and also First Amendment rights to peaceful expression and freedom of speech which you guys know a little about. So that’s really all I want to say about it, it’s taken up too much time, too much energy. We’re trying to focus on things that help us grow and develop, not things that tear us down and divide us. … It wasn’t in protest of the flag, it was unity.’’

— Ebron on having Mrs. Ford link arms with them: “It meant a lot. She’s a wonderful person. She believes in us, she trusts in us, she’s always there for us whenever we need it. You know, all we can do is just be thankful for the ownership that we have of this organization and this team. She brings a lot for us and we play for a lot because of that.”

— Akeem Spence on President Donald Trump’s statements over the weekend:  “I mean, it’s just crazy and it’s wrong. You know, it shouldn’t be like that.  There are hard-working people who give back to the community.  Our owners are the same way and they have the utmost respect for us and we have the utmost respect for our country, our flag and everything like that.  So for our head guy to say something like that about our owners, what they should do – No man, that’s something I can’t.  Right is right, wrong is wrong. So I feel like he was wrong in that sense. You know, we just came out and acted in unity together and just made a statement.”

— Spence on deciding to kneel during the National Anthem: “We had a conversation and everyone felt a certain way.  Right is right, wrong is wrong and it was wrong so we came together and just made a statement.  Nobody is taking that stuff, man, it’s wrong.  That shouldn’t be accepted in this country for nobody.”

—  Matthew Stafford: “I think the majority of the team was (linking arms) if I’m not mistaken, I didn’t look all the way up and down the line. To show solidarity, we’re a team. It’s just what we decided to do, what we thought was best.” He said the decision to link arms was just talked about among players, no big meeting or anything. The word spread.

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Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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