Falcons owner Arthur Blank stood next to head coach Dan Quinn on the field during the National Anthem before Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions.
Defensive tackles Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe elected to kneel while holding hands with defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel (standing to the right of Jarrett) and Adrian Clayborn (standing to left of Poe).
Eight members of the Detroit Lions elected to kneel also.
“It’s just a physical and symbolic representation of what I said yesterday,” Blank said before the game about standing with his team.
Blank was fine with whatever the players elected to do.
”What they do is their choice,” Blank said before the game. “I’m supportive of our players. I’m certainly supportive of their rights to express their freedom of speech. I don’t think…the people that fought for this country going back several hundred years primarily weren’t fighting for geography. They were fighting for way of life, and part of that is reflected in the freedom of speech and the ability to speak up and speak out on issues.
Blank was not pleased with the comments of President Donald Trump about players who have elected to kneel during the National Anthem.
“It’s unfortunate that the president chose to go in that direction and speak out the way he has,” Blank said. “Love conquers and that kind of divisiveness and calling out accomplishes nothing, satisfies nothing.”
Blank was not one of the seven NFL owners who dontated $1 million to Trump’s campaign. Blank was a strong supporter of President Barack Obama.
Players around the league have been protesting social and racial injustice in the country.
“The issues that they point to are legitimate issues,” Blank said. “They need to be talked about it. We need to make progress as a country moving forward with them. We don’t do it by creating walls. We don’t build walls. That doesn’t create better listening or better responses or connections.”
Blank noted that the Falcons are one of the busiest teams when it comes to doing community service.
“I think our players love this country,” Blank said. “They not only play this game, but they work their fannies off physically and financially giving back in a variety of ways to our communities throughout the national football league. We are the first to step up and do very significant things. They do it day in and day out. I see it every day with our players.”
Blank believes the players’ issues should be addressed.
“Opening up thoughtful and positive discussions based on inclusiveness and not based on divisiveness,” Blank said. “Divisiveness is never going to solve anything in a positive way. It never has in the history of this country.”