Several members of the San Francisco 49ers took a knee and placed their hands over the hearts before the team's first contest since President Donald Trump made comments that reignited national anthem protests across the NFL.
The organization also released a statement, indicating that the team hopes its stance before its away game in Arizona would inspire unity.
"Today, our team chose to publicly display our unity in a new way and, in turn, urge others do the same," part of the team's statement read. "Our demonstration is simply a representation of how we hope our country can also come together by putting differences aside and solving its problems."
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) October 1, 2017
More than one week ago, President Donald Trump suggested that NFL owners should fire players who fail to stand during the national anthem. Not standing for the anthem is a sign of disrespect to the flag and the country, Trump said and continues to reiterate.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired," Trump said on Sept. 22 during a political rally in Alabama.
The commander in chief's comments prompted hundreds of NFL players to kneel, lock arms, raise their fists, sit or entirely skip the anthem two days later during Week 3 of the season. Similar protests — but not nearly as many — also took place during Week 4.
The 49ers did not play during the weekend of Week 3 because they played on the Thursday prior, one day before Trump made his initial comments regarding players who protest during the anthem.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the protest movement during national anthems last season. He refused to stand to raise awareness about social injustices that people of color face.
The message that the San Francisco 49ers shared before Sunday's game against Arizona can be read below:
At its purest level, football is a unifier of people from all walks of life, different socio-economic backgrounds, every corner of this country and around the world. As players, coaches, ownership and staff, we are privileged to work in an environment that is a tremendous example of how people can come together for a common goal. We not only put our differences aside, but we also use them to achieve that common goal by challenging each other to be better - both in our professional and personal lives.
For more than a year, members of our team have protested the oppression and social injustices still present in our society. While some may not have taken a knee or raised a fist, we have all shared the desire to influence positive change. Today, our team chose to publicly display our unity in a new way and, in turn, urge others do the same. Our demonstration is simply a representation of how we hope our country can also come together by putting differences aside and solving its problems.
As the majority of us have done throughout our careers, we use our platform as members of a NFL team, and our right to freedom of expression, to speak up for those whose voice is not heard. It is important that we continue to emphasize that despite our different backgrounds and beliefs, we still love each other and are truly a brotherhood. Our gesture today was an intentional effort to demonstrate that. Make no mistake, we love this great country and have tremendous respect for our military and veterans who have sacrificed so much for our right to express ourselves freely. We passionately want what is best for this country and all its citizens.
On behalf of the San Francisco 49ers organization, we urge our fellow citizens to embrace your differences, find strength in them, and come together for the good of all.