CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Nine members of the New Orleans Saints took seats on the bench beyond the sideline during the national anthem prior to Sunday afternoon's game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
Reactions were expected to be mixed after President Donald Trump's comments over the weekend that included saying that players who don't stand for the anthem should be fired by owners of teams in the league.
At least a couple of the seated New Orleans players appeared to have a hand placed over their hearts.
There were no Carolina players seen sitting or kneeling during the pregame anthem. Veteran defensive end Julius Peppers wasn't on the sideline during the anthem and then was on the sideline once the game began.
"Our organization takes great pride in equality and inclusion and find the comments by the President disappointing and inappropriate relative to our players on this issue," the Saints said in a statement prior to Sunday's game. "Tom Benson served in the military and continues to this day to support all military branches and feels strongly that we honor those men and women who defend our freedoms and our freedom of speech. He also believes that the very players that represent the Saints and Pelicans organizations should be allowed to share or express their feelings. We prefer to take this moment in time and work together, all of us, to stop the divisiveness. Our players and our organization serve the New Orleans community selflessly and do so without care of race, creed or sexual orientation and that makes us a better city and a better team. We believe strongly in honoring our flag and the national anthem and what it represents and we support our players. We all must strive to show that we are all Americans and continue to work towards equality for all. The NFL and NBA, perhaps more than any sports, have the power to bring communities together."