(CNN) — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined his team in taking a knee before the National Anthem, then the Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals players stood with arms locked for the anthem ahead of the “Monday Night Football” kickoff.
Still, the fans in Glendale, Arizona, booed as “America’s Team” knelt.
Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant and running back Ezekiel Elliott said the team was sending a message to President Donald Trump, who in recent days has issued caustic criticism of the anthem protests that began as a means to decry racial and social injustice. They evolved over the weekend, with some players choosing to kneel, lock arms or remain in their locker rooms in response to Trump’s remarks.
“That was a clear shot at Trump,” Bryant said of his team’s display. “We showed great unity tonight, and that’s what that was for. I feel like that was needed.”
Added Elliott, “We don’t agree at all with what the President said, and we just wanted to show that we weren’t going to be divided by that.”
Jones, who in the past has criticized such conduct, said he was proud of his team for showing respect for the American flag, while also showing unity.
“We want to stand and respect the flag,” he said. “Nothing we did tonight says anything other than that, but we also, as a complete team … want to be able to, when we can, demonstrate that unity is important and equality is important. So, the thing that I’m so proud of these guys for, they did both.”
Trump kicked off the morning after the Cowboys’ 28-17 victory with double-barreled tweets, both noting the anger that fans in Glendale exhibited but also appearing to praise the Cowboys for standing during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
After claiming NFL ratings overall were down, Trump tweeted, “The booing at the NFL football game last night, when the entire Dallas team dropped to its knees, was loudest I have ever heard. Great anger.”
That tweet was followed by, “But while Dallas dropped to its knees as a team, they all stood up for our National Anthem. Big progress being made-we all love our country!”
As she performed the anthem, pop singer Jordin Sparks also shook up the Twitterverse, with a scripture reference written on her hand: Proverbs 31: 8-9, which reads, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Many took to social media to praise Sparks.