San Francisco 49ers defy Mike Pence’s PR stunt by kneeling
Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers’ season could be over after he suffered a broken collarbone
Eli Harold, Arik Armstead and K’Waun Williams of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the national anthem before their game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images
A week after Vice-President Mike Pence left an NFL game when San Francisco players knelt during the national anthem, members of the team chose to continue their protest.
Seven 49ers knelt before the game against Washington on Sunday, down from 20 who took a knee before last week’s contest in Indianapolis.
Pence was following the orders of Donald Trump, who has been infuriated by NFL players kneeling during the anthem as a protest at racial injustice.
“I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country,” Trump wrote on Twitter then. “I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.”
The 49ers have been central to the protest movement in the NFL. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has since left the team, started the protests last season and safety Eric Reid was the first man to join him. Reid knelt again on Sunday. Last week he said Pence’s walkout was a “PR stunt”.
“He knew our team has had the most players protest,” Reid said. “He knew that we were probably going to do it again. This is what systemic oppression looks like.
“A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple things out and leaves the game in an attempt to thwart our efforts. Based on the information I have, that’s the assumption I made.”
Last week the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, said players should stand for the anthem as it emerged that the protest movement was affecting the popularity of the country’s richest league among large sections of its fanbase.
Surveys have found the majority of white fans are opposed to the protests while most black fans support them.
“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem,” the commissioner wrote. “It is an important moment in our game. We want to honour our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.”
Goodell later insisted that players would not be forced to stand but the league’s specific stance on the protests is still not clear.
The Green Bay Packers lost star quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a possibly season-ending broken collarbone as they lost 23-10 the Minnesota Vikings.
The two-time NFL MVP was carted off the field in the first quarter after a heavy hit from Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr and scans soon showed the extent of the injury.
The Packers tweeted: “QB Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone. There’s a chance he could miss the rest of the season.”
Stand-in Brett Hundley connected with the in-form Davante Adams for a touchdown, but two Jerick McKinnon scores helped the Vikings move alongside their opponents at 4-2 atop the NFC North.
Just two wins now cover the division after the Chicago Bears nursed rookie Mitchell Trubisky to his first career win, 27-24 in overtime against the Baltimore Ravens.
The second overall pick in this year’s draft threw only 16 times as the stand-out passing play came from running back Tarik Cohen, the diminutive rookie finding Zach Miller for a 21-yard score in the second quarter. Connor Barth’s field goal eventually decided the game.
The Houston Texans feasted on the Cleveland Browns’ replacement quarterback Kevin Hogan to the tune of three interceptions, one of which was returned to the end zone by Jonathan Joseph, as well as a safety on an intentional grounding penalty. Touchdowns for Will Fuller, Braxton Miller and DeAndre Hopkins made for a 33-17 win.
The New Orleans Saints won a wild game 52-38 against the Detroit Lions. Marvin Jones’ spectacular score sparked a Detroit fightback from 45-10 down but Cameron Jordan iced the game with the Saints’ third defensive score.
The New York Jets were on course to add to their shock early-season form when they took a 14-0 lead over their longtime rivals the New England Patriots, but two Rob Gronkowski touchdowns helped the reigning Super Bowl champions roar back to win 24-17.
The Atlanta Falcons lost 20-17 to the Miami Dolphins having led 17-0 while the Washington Redskins won 26-24 against the San Francisco 49ers, who benched QB Brian Hoyer in the second quarter.
The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the Kansas City Chiefs’ reign as the NFL’s last unbeaten team, edging a 19-13 win to hand the Chiefs their first loss of the season.
An impressive defensive effort by the Steelers meant that at the four-minute mark in the third quarter, they had surrendered just 25 total yards of offence to the Chiefs.
Le’Veon Bell had 32 carries for 179 yards and a touchdown, while Antonio Brown held eight receptions for 155 yards and a circus catch for a touchdown.
The New York Giants were without a host of injured receivers led by Odell Beckham, as well as cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie due to a team-imposed suspension, but still managed a shock 23-10 victory over the Denver Broncos.
In their first win of the season the Giants shone with their improved defence, forcing three turnovers and a fourth-down stop.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston was another notable quarterback casualty as he suffered a shoulder injury against the Arizona Cardinals — marking the first time in his career that he left a game due to injury.
Running back Adrian Peterson, traded by the Saints this week, scored an early touchdown on his Cardinals debut in a dominant 38-33 win.
Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Rams posted a 27-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars — their fourth win of the season.
The Rams got off to a quick start as Pharoh Cooper returned the opening kick 103 yards for a touchdown, but faced an immediate response from Leonard Fournette to square the game at 7-7 after 25 seconds.
In California, Nick Novak made a 32-yard field goal to help visitors Los Angeles Chargers edge a 17-16 win over the Oakland Raiders.
The Chargers’ second win on the bounce leaves them in third place in the AFC West, tied with the Raiders.