By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — In their first actions during a national anthem, many Bears players and coaches locked arms as a team along the sidelines as a sign of solidarity prior to their game against the Steelers at Soldier Field on Sunday. The response came two days after President Donald Trump made comments at an Alabama rally calling players who protest the national anthem “sons of b—.”
The Steelers didn’t take the field for the national anthem, with the lone exceptions being coach Mike Tomlin, who occupied the sidelines, and guard Alejandro Villanueva, who stood outside the tunnel with his hand over his heart. Villanueva served in the U.S. Army before playing in the NFL.
The Bears hadn’t displayed any kind of individual or collective protest prior to Trump’s comments Friday, in which he decried the actions of many players.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now,” Trump said. “Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”
Trump has since tweeted on several occasions, calling out NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his “statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.” The comments from Trump have led to responses from teams and owners around the league, including Bears chairman George McCaskey, who issued a statement Sunday prior to kickoff at Soldier Field.
“The Chicago Bears are proud to support our players, coaches and all members of our organization to bring peace and unity together through football,” McCaskey said in a statement. “What makes this the greatest country in the world are the liberties it was founded upon and the freedom to express oneself in a respectful and peaceful manner. Through important dialogue with our players and team, this divisive political situation has unified our franchise for the present and the future.”
McCaskey spoke with the Bears on Saturday night and privately told them that “he supports them no matter what they decide to do (in protest Sunday),” according to Zach Zaidman on the WBBM Newsradio 780 pregame show.
Soldier Field stood along with the Bears for the national anthem. The Steelers emerged from their locker room at the conclusion of the anthem, with a large American flag still spread across the field. They were greeted to loud boos as they emerged from the tunnel.
The comments from Trump sparked many reactions around the league, with players offering harsh words in response. Bears guard Kyle Long was among the notable players issuing a tweet, saying: “Taking freedoms away from Americans is unamerican. Ain’t it? 👀”
Players from the Bears and Steelers are sure to address the actions Sunday after their game at Soldier Field.