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) , 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."
.@UnderArmour stands for the flag and by our Athletes for free speech, expression and a unified America.— Under Armour News (@UAnews) September 23, 2017
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.
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....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
...our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
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) 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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