Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.
"I definitely will be making a statement," Jackson said on Twitter. "No disrespect to our military. … But we have to stick together as people!! Unity."
Jackson also called Trump a "joke."
Jackson was one of several Bucs who joined other players around the league pushing back against the president after his comments at a rally for Alabama Republican U.S. Senate candidate Luther Strange on Friday night in Hunstville.
Trump said: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that (expletive) off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired!' You know, some owner is gonna do that. He's gonna say 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired.' And that owner … they'll be the most popular person, for a week. They'll be the most popular person in this country."
"Smh! Gives more reason," Bucs safety T.J. Ward wrote on Twitter about protesting, using online shorthand for "shaking my head."
"I am sad for our great country at this time. #Darktimes," defensive tackle Sealver Siliga wrote. "I stand for my brothers in the NFL, I also stand for my brothers and sisters who fight for our country! I don't have to pick a side! But hope we can all unite one day!
"So the BLACK NFL PLAYERS are (expletive) now WOW," defensive tackle Chris Baker wrote.
Trump didn't address players of a specific race. Most of the players who have protested during the anthem are black; they have said their actions are to bring attention to racial inequality and injustice.
Commissioner Roger Goodell — whose owners include many donors to, and friends of, the president — issued a rebuke to Trump on Saturday. "Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities," he said in a statement.
CNN reported that among the owners who have donated to Trump is Bucs co-chairman Ed Glazer, who gave $250,000 to Trump's inaugural committee.
Bucs officials told players during the preseason that they are free to express themselves during the anthem as they see fit. No Buc sat or kneeled during the preseason or before last weekend's opener.
Last season, receiver Mike Evans sat during the anthem before one game, a home game against the Bears after the presidential election.
Players union executive director DeMaurice Smith said Saturday that players won't back down when it comes to protecting their constitutional rights. "We no longer can afford to stick to sports," he said in a statement.
Owners of the Giants, Dolphins and 49ers also issued statements criticizing the president.
Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch called Trump's remarks "inappropriate, offensive and divisive." They said they are proud of their players, "the vast majority of whom use their NFL platform to make a positive difference in our society."
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said that his players who have kneeled for the anthem "are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone. … We all can benefit from learning, listening and respecting each other."
Jed York, owner of the 49ers, called Trump's comments "callous and offensive" and said they are contrary to what the country stands for. The team will continue to support its players who exercise their rights as citizens "in peaceful pursuit of positive change."
On Saturday night, Trump stuck by his criticism of the players and brushed off Goodell's rebuke.
"Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!" he wrote on Twitter.
Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.