REGINA – Backlash from U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem reached the Canadian Football League on Sunday.
Though players from both the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders stood for the Canadian anthem prior to their game in Regina, the Riders locked arms in a show of solidarity.
Many players voiced their support for their football brethren south of the border after Calgary’s 15-9 victory.
“It’s sad and it’s disheartening to me as an American to see our president getting in bickering matches with people on Twitter, calling out athletes saying they should be fired,” said Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. “I’m glad we’re all uniting against that and I hope we take a stand against something that is unacceptable.”
Trump inflamed an already emotional and controversial issue on Friday at a rally in Alabama.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired.'” Trump said during his speech.
Trump also rescinded his invite to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors after all-star guard Steph Curry said he was not interested in visiting the White House.
Roughriders quarterback Kevin Glenn took to Twitter Saturday morning and voiced his opinion on the issue.
Glenn tweeted: “#trump is the disrecptful (sic) one, he should be fired #trumpisabean.”
Riders offensive lineman Derek Dennis was one of the players that locked arms.
“We wanted to show solidarity and show that we understand what’s going on back home,” he said. “We didn’t do this to disrespect the Canadian flag or its Armed Forces because this country has given us an opportunity to play football, the game we love. We just wanted to show our support for what is going on back home.
“Being a kid from New York City. … I was attacked by a bunch of undercover detectives who just messed with me just because they could. I’ve been through it and I understand what’s going on.”
According to The Associated Press, approximately 130 NFL players either took to a knee or sat during the Star-Spangled Banner during the league’s first nine games on Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Steelers elected to remain in the tunnel while the anthem was sung.
“It’s more about unity than anything else,” said Calgary’s Charleston Hughes. “This is about being united as brothers to stand up for one another. It’s not just about the NFL or just about the CFL. It’s about standing up for what is right and showing support.”
The movement started last year with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took to one knee in protest of racial injustice and police brutality in America.
On Saturday, the anthem protest reached Major League Baseball shores. Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell was the first player in that sport to take a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner.
Several teams in the WNBA have protested the anthem since 2016.
“It shows that people understand the social issues that are going on right now,” Dennis said. “With Trump’s comments the other day, it showed us that we’re really alone as an ethnicity in America. It hurts.”