LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) —Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke weighed in Sunday on the issue of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, as the protests appeared to be growing in the wake of sharp criticism from President Donald Trump.

“The Los Angeles Rams, our fan base and our city are all comprised of people from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs,” Kroenke said in a statement released Sunday morning. “When we recognize that this diversity is our strength and seek to understand different perspectives, we are more enlightened and empathetic human beings. Our organization is committed to celebrating diversity, inclusion and respect, values that help define Los Angeles. We are proud of the work that our players and all NFL players do to make our communities better places to live. We believe in the tenets of the national anthem, which is a pillar of this country; just as freedom of speech is another pillar and a constitutional right. We will continue to support our players’ freedom to peacefully express themselves and the meaningful efforts they make to bring about positive change in our country.”

Trump slammed the players during a speech in Alabama on Friday, saying, “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!’ You know some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag; he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.”

Trump doubled down Sunday morning on his comments. This came as approximately two dozen players took a knee during the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars game in London, according to CBS News, followed by several similar shows of defiance across the league Sunday.

In response, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hit back at the president on Saturday. “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,” Goodell said. A handful of other NFL leaders also criticized Trump’s comments, including New York Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York.

Chargers owner Dean Spanos also supported Goodell in a statement Saturday.

“I wholeheartedly agree with the commissioner’s statement,” Spanos said. “The NFL and its players, more than anything, have been a force for good.  What our country needs right now is a message of unity, civility and mutual respect.”

At Sunday morning’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars in London, several players on both teams kneeled and locked arms during the playing of the anthem.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the protests last season by refusing to remain standing during the playing of the anthem, as a protest against the treatment of African-Americans in the United States. His feelings were prompted in part by a series of high-profile cases of law enforcement officers shooting unarmed African-Americans over the last few years. Kaepernick is now out of a job, which many NFL players and analysts have attributed to his anthem protests. The Rams’ next home game is Oct. 8 at the Coliseum against the Seattle Seahawks.

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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