LONDON — The New Orleans Saints concluded a week of turmoil Sunday by trying to show the best of what humanity can be.
One week ago, 10 Saints sat during the national anthem and four teammates joined them from a standing position, part of a league-wide protest sparked by comments from President Donald Trump that players took as an attack on the issue of racial inequality, their rights as employees and their right to free speech.
This time, the Saints — both players and coaches — kneeled as one to recognize the fight against racial inequality, then stood as one for the national anthem, most of them with arms linked in a display of unity.
"For us to be unified as a team, just to see that we have many different races, many different colors from white to black to brown," running back Mark Ingram said. "If we can unify as a team and come together on a tough subject, a tough matter like that, come together and compromise, we should be able to do that as a world."
New Orleans flew to England as a team with many different viewpoints on the issue, and the furor over the league-wide protests last week hit a fever pitch. Louisiana legislators threatened the Saints' funding; some fans vowed to boycott the Saints and the NFL as a whole, citing their devotion to the flag and the United States military.
In all of that furor, some of the Saints who sat last week became concerned that the debate over the perceived disrespect of the flag was overshadowing the protest's original causes: racial inequality and police brutality. Many of the Saints who sat during the anthem last week talked to family members or friends in the military before making their decision.
"That's overshadowing the true mission, and that's the injustice that's in place," running back Adrian Peterson said. "We all have relatives in the military, friends who are active now."
Defensive end Cam Jordan, who sat during the anthem in Carolina and became one of the team's most outspoken advocates after the protest, spent a long time on the transatlantic fight to England talking with quarterback Drew Brees, who believes every American should always stand for the national anthem with their right hand over their heart. Players across the team engaged in similar conversations.
Those conversations led to a players-only meeting that ended with the decision to kneel and stand as one Sunday.
"The decision to kneel on the white prior to the anthem and then everyone stand up together, No. 1, it shows solidarity and unity for us as a team," Brees said. "It pays respect to the cause of social injustice and inequality, and it pays respect to the flag of the United States of America. I hope that's the way it came across today, was paying respect for all."
Saints coach Sean Payton, who had already said he was proud of the Saints who protested last week and criticized President Trump for what Payton believes is a lack of wisdom and a divisive nature, knelt with his team, along with the rest of the coaching staff.
"It's a credit to our leadership on the team, and we just felt like they were going to meet and spend some time on it and come up with a plan, and we were going to be really unified," Payton said. "I thought it went real well. Listen, I was proud of the leadership on the team."
Not every NFL player who has protested feels the same way as the Saints.
Three Dolphins — former Saints receiver Kenny Stills, tight end Julius Thomas and safety Michael Thomas — knelt next to their standing teammates during the anthem, and protests continued around the league Sunday.
But New Orleans hopes its joint decision serves as an example that different sides of an issue can come together.
"We're trying to make an impact in this world. Racial injustice, police brutality, the racism and bigotry that we have going on in this world, people get uncomfortable, but it needs to be talked about," Ingram said. "For us to come together and all realize that there is an issue, and also to be able to stand up so nobody feels disrespected, I think that's a strong statement."