President Donald Trump’s remarks Friday night at a political rally telling NFL fans to boycott games and team owners to fire players who fail to stand for the national anthem has drawn passionate responses around the country from both sides of the issue. Buffalo Bills co-owners Terry and Kim Pegula hosted a team meeting Saturday night, then released a statement of solidarity following the meeting.
Before Sunday’s slate of games, including Buffalo’s inspired 26-16 win over the previously undefeated Denver Broncos at New Era Field, players, coaches, and owners used their forum to express their opinions on the national anthem controversy.
Members of the Bills opted to move away from the sideline for the anthem. During Sunday’s pre-game, several Bills players took a knee, including team captain Lorenzo Alexander, who last year wore a firefighter’s helmet as he ran onto the field in Baltimore as a show of support for embattled QB Colin Kaepernick, who started the taking a knee stance among NFL players.
Alexander was one of about a dozen Bills teammates to take a knee for the anthem, and they were joined by approximately half of the Broncos’ roster in taking a knee.
While some Bills took a knee, others stood behind them, and still more locked arms as Buffalo sent a strong message that this is indeed one team.
Jim Kelly, Buffalo’s Hall of Fame quarterback, expressed his thoughts on the national anthem controversy on both his Instagram account and to a Buffalo-area radio station Sunday night.
“Even though I’m thankful the BILLS won today, I’m really upset and sad about what’s happening," Kelly wrote. "And I imagine many of you are too. I love the game of football and all that it means to the players, fans and cities across THIS country...but with all that’s going on it’s hard. The only time I will ever take a knee is to pray and to thank the Good Lord for what he’s given me. We all have our issues. We all need to try and appreciate and understand each other and help each other and that goes for our PRESIDENT TOO. I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that we need to UNITE not SEPARATE. I hope next week we can STAND, LOCK ARMS and become ONE FAMILY.”
Rather than kneeling or locking arms during the anthem, RB LeSean McCoy opted to participate in his pre-game warm-up routine as the anthem blared out to nearly 69,000 fans at sun-splashed New Era Field. McCoy could be seen stretching and jogging in place during the national anthem.
Kelly expressed his displeasure at how McCoy spent his time during the national anthem, telling Buffalo-area radio station 97Rock his opinion of Buffalo’s talented running back changed after Sunday’s pre-game behavior.
"I like LeSean McCoy, don’t get me wrong, but I totally, 100 percent I disagree with what he did," Kelly said. "You want to kneel? Fine. But when you go and do what he did yesterday, that sort of bummed me out. And I lost a lot of respect for him. And you know what? I’m a Buffalo Bill from start to finish. But when people start doing that, that’s where I draw the line. You want to kneel? That’s your prerogative. I would never do that. I will always stand, thank the good lord for everything I got. But when you disrespect the way he did and just go by his everyday duty in the national anthem being sung? Uh-uh. I won’t go for that. I’m just so bummed out right now. We won. I’m so happy. When I left the stadium, there was a guy selling LeSean McCoy’s jersey. He goes, ‘I’m getting five bucks for it!’ And nobody was buying. And I’m like, ‘C’mon Shady.’ That’s not right. You just don’t do that. But that’s my personal opinion."