President’s criticisms spark more protests at NFL games

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LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Jacksonville Jaguar players show their protest during the National Anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

CHICAGO — President Donald Trump’s comments about owners firing players who kneel during the national anthem sparked a mass increase in such protests around the National Football League Sunday, as more than 130 players sat, knelt or raised their fists in defiance during early games.

A week ago, just four players didn’t stand and two raised their fists.

Defensive star Von Miller was among the majority of Denver Broncos who took a knee in Buffalo Sunday, where Bills running back LeSean McCoy stretched during the “Star Spangled Banner.”

CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 24: Alejandro Villanueva #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stands by himself in the tunnel for the national anthem prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

In Chicago, the Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in the tunnel except for one player, Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva, who stood outside with a hand over his heart.

Tom Brady was among the New England Patriots who locked arms in solidarity in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

The president’s comments turned the anthems — usually sung during commercials — into must-watch television shown live by the networks and Yahoo!, which streamed the game in London. In some NFL stadiums, crowds booed or yelled at players to stand. There was also some applause.