Celebrities react to Trump, NFL ‘take a knee’ national anthem controversy

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Stevie Wonder takes a knee with his son Kwame Morris before performing at the 2017 Global Citizens Festival at Central Park

Stevie Wonder takes a knee with his son Kwame Morris before performing at the 2017 Global Citizens Festival at Central Park (Reuters)

Celebrities took a swipe at President Trump and spoke out in support of NFL players protesting the national anthem, using social media and their own stage to take the knee.

Trump’s words against the athletes drew sharp criticism when he told a crowd at an Alabama rally on Friday that players who didn’t stand up during the national anthem should 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 bitch off the field right now? Out! He's fired! He's fired,'" Trump said.

The rebukes came shortly after, with celebrities posting on social media using the hashtags #takeaknee or #taketheknee to show their support for the NFL athletes. At the Global Citizen Festival on Saturday in New York, music legend Stevie Wonder kneeled with his son, Kwame Morris, on the stage.

“Tonight, I‘m taking a knee for America,” Wonder told the crowd of people. “I’m taking both knees. Both knees in prayer for our planet, our future, our leaders of the world and our globe.”

Singer Stevie Wonder takes two knees with the help of his son Kwame Wonder before performing at the 2017 Global Citizens Festival at Central Park in New York, U.S., September 23, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RC15070EC410

Singer Stevie Wonder takes two knees with the help of his son Kwame Wonder before performing at the 2017 Global Citizens Festival at Central Park. (Reuters)

Pharrell Williams also took a knee at his concert in Charlottesville Sunday night, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"If I want to get on my knees right now for the people of my city, for the people of my state, that's what this flag is for," Williams said to concertgoers as he kneeled.

Williams never explicitly mention Trump’s name.

Meanwhile, rapper Diddy posted video on Instagram showing “some support to all the players in the NFL.”

“If you all do whatever you do in unity, you can’t be stopped. Just do the math, man,” Diddy said. “Do the math, stick together, stand up for each other, ride with each other because believe me, we’re all we got and it has nothing to do with football or business. Y’all are our stars, y’all represent us, y’all are our strong heroes. So show that strength, please.”

“Orange is the New Black” actress Uzo Aduba posted a photo of herself kneeling with the caption: “It’s that easy #takeaknee.”

John Legend kneeled at his concert on Sunday.

"Speak the truth even if your voice shakes." Make no mistake about it we stand with Kaepernick. #TakeAKnee” Linda Sarsour said.

NASCAR owners, however, are standing with Trump on the controversy, saying they wouldn’t want anyone on their teams to disrespect the national anthem.

“It’ll get you a ride on a Greyhound bus.” Richard Childress said, adding that “anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.”

Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty told The Associated Press: “Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States."

More than 200 NFL players protested during the 14 games played on Sunday nationwide. Football Sunday kicked off in London with dozens of players on the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars taking a knee – the first game since Trump called out the athletes for disrespecting the nation and American flag during the protests.

On Monday morning, Trump reiterated that his criticism of the anthem protest “has nothing to do with race.”

“It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!” Trump tweeted early Monday morning.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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