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Rams players meet for first time since Trump's comments spark leaguewide anthem demonstrations

Rams players meet for first time since Trump's comments spark leaguewide anthem demonstrations
Rams punter Johnny Hekker (6) puts his arm around defensive end Robert Quinn (94) as he raises his fist during the performance of the national anthem on Sept. 21. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

The Rams on Monday met as a team for the first time since President Trump's comments about sports' protests, and coach Sean McVay spoke with his players about how NFL teams and players reacted during Sunday's games.

Trump said Friday, the day after the Rams defeated the San Francisco 49ers, that team owners should fire players for kneeling during the national anthem. His comments caused a wave of negative reaction throughout the league, including unified gestures by entire teams on Sunday and Monday.

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McVay started the conversation with his players, punter Johnny Hekker said.

"I think he handled it in a very appropriate, very mature way and said, 'Hey, as a team what are we going to do?' " said Hekker, adding nothing was decided.

McVay is not scheduled to address the media until Wednesday. The Rams play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at AT&T Stadium.

Linebacker Robert Quinn has raised his right fist during the national anthem since last season, after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem to protest what he said was police brutality and racial oppression in the United States.

Quinn was asked Monday about his reaction to Trump's comments.

"When you have a man in that position, and for him to come out and say stuff like that, it's kind of I won't say heartbreaking, but hopefully eye-opening," Quinn said. "Because he was saying crazy stuff before he got into office. But he still ended up in office, so it really don't surprise me."

Quinn saw the actions of other NFL teams over the weekend but would not speculate about whether they would continue.

"If you believe in what you stand for, you'll continue to support it," he said. "We'll see if it lasts for a week, a month, a year and see what people really truly are about."

Before the last two games, Hekker stood next to Quinn during the anthem with his arm on the linebacker's shoulder in a sign of support.

Hekker said the reaction by NFL players on Sunday was warranted.

"Any time you get called an S.O.B by anybody, it's not something you're very happy about," Hekker said, "so it made a lot of people angry."

He added that the Rams and other NFL players could "use this as thing to jell to an even closer-knit team, and across the league a closer-knit league of guys that are empowered toward social action and wanting to really be about what they stand up for."

Linebacker Alec Ogletree said, "It definitely sucks to hear that from the president," and said it might spur him to mobilize.

"I don't think I really understood the magnitude of the situation when it first came about so it was kind of hard for me to go either way on it,'' Ogletree said. "But given what just happened, definitely for me personally, it definitely drives me to want to be more involved in the movement."

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Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth on Saturday tweeted, "Try to divide and you may just unify!"

On Monday, the 12th-year pro addressed the controversy and spoke of a childhood friend who served in the military and died in Iraq during Whitworth's rookie season.

"The bottom line is, if everybody could just get to the point of respect and appreciation and love for one another, then we'd have a lot better opportunity to come to a solution for everyone," Whitworth said, adding, "People fought hard for freedoms. They didn't fight hard for one mentality."

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

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