Anthem protests around NFL spread to Charlotte for Panthers-Saints

Anthem protests around NFL spread to Charlotte for Panthers-Saints

CHARLOTTE, NC (Joseph Person/The Charlotte Observer) - Carolina Panthers veteran defensive end Julius Peppers was not on the field for the national anthem before Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints.

All of the Panthers players who were on the field stood for the anthem. Peppers walked on the field afterward with a team official.

Peppers was not available to reporters during the week leading to the game.

More than a dozen Saints players, including Adrian Peterson, sat on the bench during the anthem.

By the time the 1 p.m. games began, 25 of the 32 NFL owners had issued statements following President Donald Trump's comments suggesting players who don't stand for the anthem should be fired, but Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was not among them.

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was Richardson's guest at Sunday's game, said – as a private citizen – he found Trump's comments "insulting and disgraceful."

"To single out any particular group of players and call them SOB's, to me that is insulting and disgraceful. So I think the players deserve credit for what they do," Tagliabue told a group of reporters in Charlotte.

"And when it comes to speech they are entitled to speak. And we are entitled to listen," he added. "We are entitled to agree or disagree. But we're not entitled to shut anybody's speech down.

"Sometimes you don't like what you hear and that is true in life in lots of context, but you can't shut people down and be disgraceful when you are doing it."

Sunday afternoon, Trump tweeted about what was happening at NFL games:

"Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!"

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin told CBS that he and his players decided to remain in the locker room before the Steelers' game in Chicago.