DENVER -- Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis is joining several higher-ups among the NFL in support for his players to kneel during the national anthem, after President Donald Trump said those who do so should be fired from their teams.
"Our players have shown a tremendous commitment to raising awareness for important societal issues by using their platform in a positive way,” Ellis said in a statement sent to Denver7 Saturday evening. “In addition to their hard work off the field, we have great admiration for their dedication to making our team the absolute best it can be. They've made incredible sacrifices to reach this level, and we recognize they give their all to our team and fans each and every day.
As an organization, we could not be more proud, appreciative and grateful for our players. We'll continue to support them and work together to advocate for values of respect, diversity and inclusion,” he said.
Ellis joins New York Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson, Seahawks President Peter McLoughlin, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, Kansas City Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, Philadelphia Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, New York Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, New England Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, Chicago Bears chairman George H. McCaskey, Los Angeles Rams owner and chairman E. Stanley Kroenke, among others.
President Trump’s remarks, which created a league-wide backlash, came during a rally for Alabama Sen. Luther Strange.
During the rally on Friday night, Trump remarked that if fans would "leave the stadium" when players kneel in protest during the national anthem, "I guarantee, things will stop."
Trump also said NFL owners should respond to the players by saying, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he's fired. He's fired!"
"For a week, (that owner would) be the most popular person in this country. Because that's a total disrespect of our heritage. That's a total disrespect for everything we stand for," Trump said.
In response, NFL teams — including the Denver Broncos — kneeled, locked their arms and raised their fists in a show of unity against the president and his remarks.
But the protests didn’t come as a result of Trump.
Last year, Colin Kaepernick – who was with the San Francisco 49ers, but who is currently without a team -- drew national media attention for refusing to stand during "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to kickoff, spurring both support and backlash from players and fans alike.
At Friday's rally, Trump also took aim at NFL efforts to prevent concussions. "They're ruining the game, right?" he said. "They're ruining the game."
The Saturday backlash came after Trump tweeted early in the morning that he would withdraw his invitation to invite two-time NBA MVP Golden State Warriors player Stephen Curry to the White House after “hesitating” to make the champions’ trip to Washington, D.C.
Curry said Friday he did not want to make such a visit.
“By acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to,” Curry said Friday at the Warriors’ media day. “It’s not just the act of not going. There are things you have to do on the back end to actually push that message into motion.”