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At least 100 NFL players kneel during national anthem

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Baltimore Ravens players kneel for the American National anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

NFL players used the national anthem to show their defiance to President Donald Trump’s criticism, with at least 100 players kneeling or sitting in protest and one team staying in the locker room.

Most teams in the early afternoon games locked arms in solidarity. At least three team owners joined their players.

The Seattle Seahawks released a statement Saturday night supporting their players’ use of free speech.

More than 100 players sat or knelt, the form of protest started last season by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is now a free agent, and supporters believe teams have avoided signing him because of his protest.

The Pittsburgh Steelers remained in the locker room as the national anthem played before their game with the Chicago Bears. Coach Mike Tomlin stood by himself on the sideline.

How each team would observe the national anthem emerged as the center of attention on this NFL Sunday in the wake of Trump’s critical remarks toward players who don’t stand for the anthem.

Tomlin had said before the game that Pittsburgh’s players would remain in the locker room and that “we’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.” Tomlin added that the Steelers made this choice “not to be disrespectful to the anthem but to remove ourselves from this circumstance. People shouldn’t have to choose.”