LONDON: Some 23 American footballers at Wembley hit back at Donald Trump by kneeling the traditional pre-match playing of the American national anthem.

The protest by players of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens was came little more than a day after the United States President told club owners to fire players who knelt for the Stars and Stripes.

This gesture became a symbol of protest since last year when San Francisco 49ers quaterback Colin Kaepernick sat or kneeled during the anthem to highlight the treatment of black Americans.

On Friday, an angry Trump  said in a speech that the protest should no longer be tolerated, adding: ‘Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now… he is fired.'”

He added that if fans would ‘leave the stadium’ when players knelt: ‘I guarantee, things will stop.’

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement that “divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect.” The NFL Players’ Association said Trump had crossed a line by effectively telling players to just “shut up and play.”

Baseball gesture

On Saturday night, the Oakland Athletics’ Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel in protest.

In Sunday’s NFL games neither the Seattle Seahawks nor the Tennessee Titans turned out for the national anthem before kick-off at their game, hours after the Pittsburgh Steelers did the same in Chicago

The Chicago Bears stood on the sidelines with their arms locked, as did New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady and teammates at another game. Some Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals players also linked arms

The anthem singer at the Seahawks-Titans game kneeled at the end of he performance, as did singer at the Lions-Falcons game, who also raised his fist

Fans booed their own teams at some games as players protested – including at the Titans and Patriots games