Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he doesn’t believe the team will continue its pregame protest of locked arms in response to recent comments from President Donald Trump when it hosts the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. However, he would not disclose whether several individual players will again kneel during the national anthem in a more demonstrative protest.
“I think this week was a different one,” Quinn said Monday of varied NFL-wide reactions. “I think there was really some definite reaction. You saw that around the league.”
The reaction was to President Donald Trump calling players who knelt during the national anthem “sons of bitches” and his urge of owners to fire them. Those comments sparked a league-wide protest with players choosing to kneel increasing from six to more than 150 before the Monday night game, according to a count by the Associated Press.
“I would anticipate maybe this one was stronger this week than it’s ever been because the comments affected people on such a different level,” Quinn said. “We haven’t talked about it further as a team, but my initial response would be it would settle back down after this first week. I think people wanted to come out loud and clear saying this isn’t cool.”
The Falcons mostly stood as a team and locked arms along with owner Arthur Blank during Sunday’s win at Detroit. Off to the right side, offensive linemen Jake Matthews and Alex Mack and fullback Derrick Coleman stood alone.
Defensive tackles Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe joined the line and knelt in protest of Trump’s comments. NFL players, most notably Colin Kaepernick last year, began kneeling during the national anthem to protest issues of racial injustice and police brutality. Quinn would not say whether Jarrett and Poe would continue to kneel.
“I’m not going to go into the guys’ personal timelines and my conversations with them,” Quinn said. “It’s their story to tell, and those are topics that we keep near and dear to our brotherhood, and that’s something that I won’t discuss publicly.”
Under Quinn, the Falcons have referred to team solidarity as ‘the brotherhood.’ Those sentiments were echoed on Sunday as several players noted the diversity of the team and the strength from which they drawn from it.
“We have people from rural parts of the country, people from inner cities, we have all kinds of different races,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “We’ve got guys from out of the country in London, yet we all come together for a common goal, we all get along really well.
“We’re different, but we certainly make it work, and that’s why it’s cool to be a part of it because you see the way it could be, how things could be. And certainly I disagree and I think, I don’t want to speak for other people, but I disagree with some of the comments that were made a couple of days ago (by the president).”
The Falcons did not reveal their protest before the game against the Lions. However, Blank issued a statement on Saturday night and the team confirmed Sunday morning that they would be on the field during the national anthem. Some teams chose to remain in the locker room.
“We didn’t have a discussion, per se, what everyone was going to do,” Quinn said. “I think a lot of guys were really struggling with the comments that were made and some of them were still dealing with that and wrestling with it as it goes.
“Everyone will react to those topics differently, and I think that’s one of the coolest parts that we do have about our brotherhood. We are from different backgrounds and we do have this inclusion of support for one another.”
The Falcons discussed as a team how they wanted to make their feelings known in a public forum.
“We’re able to listen to other points of view on certain topics, so we were still wrestling with that as we went through,” Quinn said. “What we discussed and what we brought back up is we wish the world was more like our locker room, and I think that’s really a true statement.
“To say that we come from all these different backgrounds, we’re city guys, country guys, white guys, black guys, all the backgrounds, but in this group the support that you can have for one another, I think it shows fantastic example of what it can be like. That’s what I want people to focus on, what it can be like. Now, that we’ve got some awareness of some really important topics, let’s focus on how we can do it better.”
After playing the Bills, the Falcons have a bye week. The next game is at the New England Patriots in a rematch of Super Bowl LI.
Quinn will try to get the team back on its normal routine this week when they report for practice on Wednesday. They had a ‘Victory Monday’ followed by an off day Tuesday.
“There will be some topics that they can discuss amongst themselves, but as far as the football goes, no change in our process,” Quinn said. “We’re going after it as hard as we can. We know the challenge that’ll be this weekend. Our process for football will remain the same.”