The Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem before their Sept. 24 game against the Chicago Bears, drawing boos from the crowd once the team finally took the field.
The Steelers' decision came amid a day of protest throughout the NFL following President Donald Trump's call for NFL owners to fire players who kneel during the national anthem and for fans to boycott the league.
"That's a total disrespect of our heritage," Trump said during a Sept. 22 rally. "That's a total disrespect of everything we stand for."
"Wouldn't you love to see one of those NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bi**h off the field right now, he's fired?'" Trump said during the rally, according to HuffPost.
Trump followed up his remarks on Twitter, saying, "If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!"
In response, players across the NFL knelt or stood and locked arms during the anthem. Several owners and coaches also stood, arms locked with their players.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told CBS Sports that his team meant no disrespect by staying in the locker room and the decision was made to avoid politics:
You know, these are very divisive times for our country and for us as a football team it's about us remaining solid. We're not going to be divided by anything said by anyone. ... "[I told our players] if you feel the need to do anything I'm going to be supportive of that -- as Americans you have that right. But whatever we do we're going to do 100 percent, we're going to do together. We're not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda
Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, was the lone Steelers player to leave the locker room.
Villanueva did not take the field, but could be seen standing near the edge of the tunnel during the national anthem with his hand over his heart, according to ESPN.
The Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans also stayed in the locker room before their game.
An NFL official told ESPN that players who stayed in the locker room will not face any fines.