The Bengals safety locked arms with several of his teammates before Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers, joining a nationwide symbolic protest against racism and police brutality spearheaded by former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick.
Although Kaepernick's protest -- kneeling during the national anthem -- began during the Obama administration, President Donald Trump has interpreted it and other players' gestures of solidarity as a personal diss. By Sunday, following days of increasingly vitriolic presidential attacks on the league and on other protesting athletes, it may have been just that.
While the island of Puerto Rico spent a weekend in powerless, "apocalyptic" conditions, Trump spent it tweeting that players who protested during the national anthem should be fired.
If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect....
"It's Donald," he said. "Take it with a grain of salt. Dude's a clown. You've got to take him serious because he's the leader -- if you want to call him that -- of the free world, but you've got to take him with a grain of salt."
He added he saw Trump's social media barrage as the latest in a series of outbursts meant to spark strong public reactions.
"One day it's this; the next day it's that," he said. "He says a lot just for outrage; he says a lot for clicks and things like that. It worked for him with his election, so he did something right in that regard.
"He's offended a lot of people, so I join the line of people who've been offended by Donald Trump. It is what it is."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Sunday he was pleased with his players for protesting peacefully and exhibiting solidarity across boundaries of team, race and religion. More than 250 players protested in all, according to Sports Illustrated; three entire teams remained in their locker rooms through the anthem.
"The way we reacted today, and this weekend, made me proud," Goodell said. "I'm proud of our league."