A Baltimore Ravens player who locked arms with teammates in a game Sunday in response to President Donald Trump's criticism of players who kneel in protest during the national anthem said Trump's remarks were a "direct attack on our brotherhood."
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Ben Watson, tight end for the Baltimore Ravens, was among the players who stood arm in arm during the "Star-Spangled Banner" ahead of the team's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Sunday.
Watson told ABC News "Good Morning America" co-anchor Michael Strahan today that the protest by Ravens players was "organic."
"When we got on the field, some guys kneeled, some guys decided to kneel that didn't before," he said. "Some guys locked arms."
"I locked arms," he said.
Players and team owners across the league responded yesterday and over the weekend to Trump's slamming players such as former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling in protest during the national anthem. Kaepernick, who began the silent action in the 2016 preseason, told the media he was protesting against the treatment of blacks in the United States.
Trump at a rally Friday night in Huntsville, Alabama, said teams should fire players who kneel during the anthem.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now, out,'" the president said.
Watson said Trump's words "cut deep" for the Ravens.
"We felt as many others did that this was a direct attack on our brotherhood," he told Strahan.
Watson said he hadn't previously agreed with Kaepernick's decision to take a knee during the national anthem, but he said the president's remarks suggested players don't have the right to speak out on important issues.
"There was a tremendous amount of emotion and a tremendous amount of hurt" over Trump's words, Watson said. "Obviously, the name-calling is something we don't [stand] for but even to imply that we don't have the right to express ourselves in that way is something that we really took to heart."
Watson added that he has long been concerned about the same issues that prompted Kaepernick's protest.
"I haven't kneeled, but the reasons [Kaepernick] decided to kneel -- the police brutality the excessive force, as he said, the impression of different people of color -- those are all concerns of mine since even before he decided to kneel... my feelings have not changed about those issues."