The Carolina Panthers lost at home Sunday to the New Orleans Saints, though politics seemed to overshadow football in NFL news this week after President Donald Trump tweeted that players should be fired for protesting during the National Anthem.
By the end of the game, Panthers supporters pretty much felt like this fan’s dogs: “defeated and deflated” after the team proved unable to keep up with longtime Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
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Joe Person, who covers the Panthers for the Observer, gave the team a bunch of Ds and Fs on their weekly report card after the game.
Twitter user @ncsujen said she would also penalize the Panthers for “not even acknowledging” protests during the anthem.
Aside from Julius Peppers, who stayed in the locker room during the anthem, the Panthers appeared to treat this week’s anthem like any other.
That lack of action set the team apart. Several other teams chose to lock arms or stay in the locker room, and many others had groups of players kneel or sit during the anthem. Across the field from the Panthers, several Saints sat.
Peppers’ one-man statement meant the Panthers had the smallest demonstration in the NFL, according to a New York Times list published Monday about protests before each game. Owner and founder Jerry Richardson was one of only three team owners, out of 32, who didn’t make a statement opposing Trump’s comments.
Reactions from fans on social media were, of course, split.
One fan said he was thinking about buying a Peppers jersey but changed his mind on Sunday. He was one of several critics of the protest who praised Peppers for “at least” staying in the locker room and not kneeling during the anthem.
After the game, Peppers said his decision to stay in the locker room was an easy one.
“I want to get one thing clear,” Peppers. “This was not about disrespecting the military, disrespecting the flag, police, first responders, none of that.
“It was about me making a decision as a man on my own two feet. (And I) don’t want to ask someone else to do anything for me. I just thought it was appropriate to stay in because we know what went on this week with the comments that were made by the president. I felt like he attacked our brothers, my brothers in the league.
“So I felt like it was appropriate to stand up with them and stay in the locker room.”
Some fans said Peppers’ teammates should have joined him.
Meanwhile, some Saints fans threatened to burn their gear to protest the players who sat during the anthem, and according to local TV stations’ coverage of a deleted Facebook post, one person actually did.
In the face of the 34-13 loss, one Twitter user turned to poetry.