Ford, Lions players cut deal on anthem demonstrations

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
The Detroit Lions' Jalen Reeves-Maybin (44) and Steve Longa (54) kneel during the national anthem before the game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Minneapolis – A week ago, Ameer Abdullah was one of eight Detroit Lions players to take a knee during the national anthem. Before the opening kickoff against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Abdullah was back on this feet, locking arms with his teammates in a showing of unity against sustained attacks from president Donald Trump.

Abdullah altered his approach after some of the team’s players met with ownership and Martha Ford vowed to financially back the players’ efforts to address concerns about race relations once the group develops a plan of action.

“As a team, we came together, and talked with Mrs. Ford and the owners, and we understand the issues for the most part,” Abdullah said. “I definitely want to be an aide in growing the social awareness in this country. It is a race problem in this country. We do dance around the topic a lot. And Mrs. Ford has come forward and said, as long as we compromise as a team and make a unified demonstration, she’ll back us financially.

“I’m gonna hold her to her word. Me and a lot of my teammates are thinking of things we can do to be more active in the community to bridge this racial disconnect, in a lot of areas – not just the police department.”

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Two Lions players – linebackers Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Steve Longa – opted to continue their protest by kneeling during the anthem. Last week, it was eight players. No one on the Vikings sideline took a knee.

ESPN reported NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams this weekend, praising the league’s unified front and highlighting a message from Denver Broncos players.

“This past week was a challenging week for all of us, but I am proud of the way our clubs and players have come together and entered into dialog like never before,” Goodell wrote.

The Broncos note highlighted the players' intent, to bring attention to inequality, while emphasizing no disrespect was directed toward the country’s military or flag. It ended with the team’s commitment to stand for both their cause and the anthem going forward.

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“While there’s no greater country, it’s not perfect. Inequalities still exist, and we have work to do in ALL forms of social justice. We can all do better.

"It starts with us. We need to do our part and use our platform as NFL players to continue driving that positive change.

"Our locker room is one diverse place, and that’s what makes it so special. It’s where thoughtful, intelligent leaders from all different races, religions and backgrounds come together.

"We may have different values and beliefs, but there’s one thing we all agree on:

"We’re a team and we stand together — no matter how divisive some comments and issues can be, nothing should ever get in the way of that.

"Starting Sunday, we’ll be standing together."