Following a politically-charged weekend of professional football, corporate sponsors of the National Football League, including Ford Motor Co. (F) - Get Report , Under Armour Inc. (UA) - Get Report and Anheuser-Busch InBev SA (BUD) - Get Report , have started to speak out -- but some are being careful not to take sides, Bloomberg reported.
Ford issued a statement promising to "respect individuals' rights to express their views, even if they are not ones we share." Ford continued: "That's part of what makes America great."
The tepid response from some NFL sponsors comes after President Donald Trump called on team owners to fire players who don't stand for the National Anthem over the weekend. In response to President Trump's comments, NFL players and coaches across the league kneeled, sat or stayed in the locker room during the Star Spangled Banner during this week's match-ups.
The movement, which has spread on the internet as "#TakeAKnee," was started by former San Francisco 49-ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick first took a knee during the National Anthem last fall to call public attention to issues of racial injustice in America.
Other sponsors were more decisive in their statements following the weekend's events. Nike Inc. (NKE) - Get Report issued a statement saying it "supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society."
Hyundai Motor Co. (HMC) - Get Report said, "We stand for and respect individuals' freedoms to express their First Amendment rights in any peaceful manner in which they choose. We also stand for inclusion, freedom and all that represents those value."
Most of the 37 NFL corporate sponsors have kept quiet on the issue, as winning a gig with the most popular sport in the U.S. means lots of eyes on ads during games. The NFL earns $1.25 billion from its corporate partners, according to Bloomberg.
Sunday ratings were mixed, as games on Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.-owned (FOX) - Get Report Fox and Comcast Corp.-owned (CMCSA) - Get Report NBC had fewer viewers than usual, while CBS Corp.'s (CBS) - Get Report broadcast gained watchers. Throughout the season so far, overall viewership has declined.
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