A singer performing the American national anthem at the beginning of an NFL football game sided with players sending a defiant message to Donald Trump after she dropped to her knee.
Former The Voice contestant Meghan Linsey showed her support for athletes embroiled in the racism row while completing her rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" ahead of the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans clash in Nashville.
Top stars in the sport have been kneeling and bowing their heads in stadiums during the patriotic song in protest at what they see is injustice, including police brutality, against minorities in the US.
Mr Trump poured fuel on the fire when he described each of them as a “son of bitch” who “disrespects our flag” – and called for them to be fired.
But rather than dampen their defiance he sparked wider protests, with scores of players in two major NFL games on Sunday either staying in their locker rooms or taking a knee during the anthem.
The entire Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans squads remained off the field in the Nissan Stadium amid the national song, with the Seahawks later saying their act of defiance was in protest at the “injustice that has plagued people of colour in this country”.
Ms Linsey sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" with a guitar player on the field empty of players, and in the last notes drew applause from thousands in the stadium when she took a knee and bowed.
The Voice runner-up didn’t comment after but did re-tweet messages of support.
One included a post from author Bobby Jones, who wrote: “@meghanlinsey respect. Took guts. And heart. Glad you followed it. Love this country.”
Another she shared on the social media site came from singer Haley Grace, who posted: “No matter what anyone says, I'm proud of @meghanlinsey for standing up for what she believes.”
The Seahawks said they stayed away from the national anthem in protest against racism in the US, speaking out ahead of the clash where the Titans clinched the game with 33 to 27 points.
A statement read: "As a team, we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of colour in this country.”
Elsewhere, the Pittsburgh Steelers players remained in the tunnel before their game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field stadium in Chicago, Illinois. But Alejandro Villanueva, who served with the US Army in Afghanistan, stood alone in front of it.
The protests came after Mr Trump on Friday said: “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!’”
He hit out again after scores of major stars protested on Sunday.
Mr Trump wrote: "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 our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!"
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