Lions owner asks team to stand for anthem in return for donations to community issues

Though NFL players are increasingly taking a seat or a knee during the national anthem, members of the Detroit Lions are incentivized to stand for the anthem. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions owner Martha Ford asked the players to stand for the national anthem. In return, Ford promised to support issues close to the players with her wallet and name.

The Free Press reported that the Lions did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, two players confirmed Ford's offer.

"She just asked us not to take the knee and basically told us -- not basically, she told us she would back and support financially as well as put her name on whatever issues that we wanted to try to attack," defensive end Cornelius Washington told the Free Press. "But as far as the kneeling, she just I guess felt like there was better ways to get the point across. And at this point, people know what we're kneeling for so now trying to take that next step in the plan of action to foster change is, that's the next part and that's the part she's willing to get behind."

Running back Ameer Abdullah provided a similar account.

"As a team, we came together, talked to Mrs. Ford, the owners, and we understand the issues for the most part, generally," Abdullah said. "Me personally, I definitely want to be an aid in growing the social awareness in this country, that it is a race problem in this country.

"We do dance around the topic a lot and Mrs. Ford has come forward and said that as long a we compromise as a team and unify and make a unified demonstration, she'll back us financially. So I'm definitely going to hold her to her word."

Washington called it a "step in the right direction."

"I don't think it's a cure-all kind of thing, but it's a step in the right direction and then for somebody as powerful as her to say to come in and say she'll stand up and she'll back and put her name on whatever it is that we want to do, whatever it is that we want to attack, try to bring some real change about for the issues, to me that's big," he said.

And Abdullah said that the players are already "thinking up some ideas."

"Me and a lot of teammates are conjugating and thinking up some things we can do to be more active in the community to bridge this racial disconnect in a lot of areas," Abdullah said. "Not just the police department, not just here or there. A lot of different fronts we're going to attack here. And we have her support, so as long as we have that little pact between us that we're going to demonstrate in a manner that's more unified as a team and she has our financial support, we're going to do so."

Before the Lions' loss to the Falcons last week, Abdullah took a knee during the national anthem along with eight of his teammates, per the Free Press. Ford joined the team on the field, stood, and linked arms with Jim Caldwell during the national anthem. 

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions
Martha Ford stands with Jim Caldwell and Lions players. USATSI

But before the Lions' win over the Vikings on Sunday, only two players, linebackers Steve Longa and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, took a knee during the anthem. Everyone else stood and linked arms. As the Free Press reported, Longa's father was killed last week in a car accident. Washington said that those two players probably had "alternate reasons" for not standing.

So, given the decrease in the number of players who took a knee during the anthem, it seems like the players heard Ford's message and accepted her offer.

The demonstrations during the national anthem began last season, when then-49ers quarterback and current free agent Colin Kaepernick protested racial injustice by remaining seated through the anthem. Though Kaepernick's protest continued this season without him through players like Michael Bennett, the protest has morphed in recent weeks into a demonstration of unity. That's because on Sept. 22, Donald Trump ripped players who don't stand up for the national anthem and called for those players to be fired. 

"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," Trump said. "Out. He's fired. He's fired."

"You know, some owner is going to do that, he's going to say, 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired,'" he continued. "And that owner, they don't know it -- they're friends of mine, many of them -- they don't know it, they'll be the most popular person for a week, they'll be the most popular person in this country, because that's a total disrespect of our heritage, that's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for."

Since making those comments, Trump has continued to slam the NFL on Twitter. And the players have continually responded.

On Sunday, nine members of the Seahawks -- including Bennett -- took a seat during the anthem. So did four Dolphins players and Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, who has been sitting through the anthem since the preseason. Meanwhile, Kaepernick remains unsigned.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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