09/24/2017 16:17 EDT | Updated 09/24/2017 16:29 EDT

NFL Teams Across U.S. Defy President Trump To Protest Racism

Trump said players who kneel during the anthem are "sons of bitches."

All eyes are on the NFL today ― but not just for what happens after the kickoffs.

NFL players throughout the country are expected to demonstrate before today's games in defiance of President Trump's harsh criticism of athletes who kneel during the national anthem. In a Friday speech in Alabama, he called such players "sons of bitches," and then doubled down on his criticism in a series of follow-up posts on Twitter.

Last year, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the protest by refusing to stand for the national anthem.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said at the time. "To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

USA Today Sports/Reuters
San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and free safety Eric Reid kneel in protest of police brutality during the national anthem before a NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium.

The first protest on Sunday occurred in London, and even included the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid Khan. He linked arms with his players — several of whom were kneeling during the anthem — despite having donated $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee.

Trump's comments have already sparked a large social media response from a variety of professional athletes and celebrities, including singer Stevie Wonder, who took a knee during a performance Saturday night.

Bruce Maxwell, a catcher for the Oakland Athletics, became the first major league baseball player to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday night.

It's anticipated that players on many NFL teams will link arms, hold flags and kneel as shows of unity, rather than walking out, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported. Several players announced their intentions on social media before the games, encouraging others to demonstrate with them.

Trump responded to the demonstrations Sunday afternoon. He supported the shows of solidarity of players linking arms, but still disapproved those who chose to kneel, calling it "not acceptable."

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Baltimore Ravens

Players and staff on both teams kneeled and linked arms during the national anthem. An estimated 27 individuals took a knee on the field.

Future NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, who visited then-President-elect Trump in New York in December, also kneeled. In the past, though, Lewis has spoken against Kaepernick's protests.

"But I am against the way he's done it," Lewis said.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced that his team would be staying in the locker room during the national anthem during Sunday's game.

"We're football players, we're football coaches. We're not participating in the anthem today. Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, but to remove ourselves from this circumstance," Tomlin told CBS News. "People shouldn't have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn't have to be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn't be separated from his teammate who chooses not to. So we're not participating today."

As it turned out, almost all the Steelers declined to come out on the field for the anthem. Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, an Army veteran, broke with the team to stand on the field for the national anthem. When the Steelers emerged, many in the Chicago crowd booed them.

Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets

Miami Dolphins player Julius Thomas announced that he would be taking a knee with his teammates. Both teams linked arms during the national anthem.

New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins announced his team will be locking arms during the national anthem. In the past, Jenkins has raised his fist during the national anthem as a form of protest.

Both teams locked arms during the national anthem and several Eagles players raised their fists. The Eagles owners stood with the players.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions

The owner of the Atlanta Falcons Arthur Blank stood on the sideline with his team.

Several Lions and Falcons players kneeled during the anthem, others linked arms in solidarity.

Rico Lavelle, who sang the anthem at Ford Field in Detroit, joined the demonstrations as well, finishing his rendition of the anthem by kneeling and raising his fist in the air.

Lions' owner Martha Ford expressed support for players' right to protest in a statement on Sunday.

"Our game has long provided a powerful platform for dialogue and positive change in many communities throughout our nation," she said.

Cleveland Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts

Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was considered a potential Trump supporter during the election, was seen linking arms with his fellow teammates, but also had his hand over his heart.

New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Minnesota Vikings

Denver Broncos vs. Buffalo Bills

The Broncos were booed as many players chose to take a knee during the national anthem.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Tennessee Titans

The Seahawks' players announced before the game at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee that they would not be participating in the national anthem to "protest the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country." The team's players revealed their decision in a statement to ESPN correspondent Josina Anderson.

With files from Emma Paling

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