Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe released a statement Sunday regarding his decision to stand during the national anthem following President Donald Trump's divisive comments on NFL players protesting, per Josina Anderson of ESPN:
"I stand because I respect the men who died in real battle so I have the freedom to battle on the field. Paying tribute to the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom is why I stand. But everyone these days likes to find a reason to protest and that's their right. It's America and you are free to speak your mind. I just feel it's disrespectful to the ones who sacrificed their lives and it's maybe the wrong platform. But like I said to each their own it's AMERICA! The greatest country in the world and if you don't think we are the greatest country in the world and you reside here, then why do you stay? A lot worse places in the world to call home. Proud to be an American."
Trump took aim at players who have chosen to protest police brutality and the unfair treatment of minorities during the national anthem while speaking at a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama, on Saturday.
"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,'" Trump said, per the Associated Press.
Wolfe's teammate, linebacker Shane Ray, also offered his thoughts on Twitter in support of those who choose to protest during the anthem, per Hemal Jhaveri of For the Win:
"The heart of America is our military. There are multicultural people fighting together for us beyond what we see here at home. Those same people will come home and be discriminated against regardless of their military sacrifice. Simply because of the color of their skin. When I hear the anthem, it's not the words that make me feel like an American. It's us as people for one moment feeling united standing together. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize we are kneeling because we need everyone's focus and eyes so that we can work for a change. We have your attention now. Time to start opening your eyes so that we can change and have all people proudly stand for our country."
Ray's grandfather served in the Army during World War II, which he noted.
Protests are expected around the NFL following Trump's comments. The Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars linked arms Sunday morning in London during the national anthem, with some players also kneeling, per Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com.