SUNBURY-ON-THAMES, England — While Cameron Jordan sat during the national anthem of Sunday's game in order to protest police brutality and racial inequality, his right hand was over his heart.

Jordan tried to keep his eyes on the American flag in front of him, and he sang the words, the same way he says he has every time he's heard the anthem as long as he can remember.

Nine other Saints sat with Jordan, tackle Terron Armstead stayed in the locker room and four teammates stood in support of the 10 seated players, part of a league-wide protest of racial inequality that prompted criticism from Saints quarterback Drew Brees, fans and Louisiana lawmakers, including Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who said the protests were "un-American" and offensive to the military. 

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Brees and Jordan spent a long time talking about the issues on the plane to London after the game on Sunday, and the pair of leaders said other conversations have been taking place among the team about how to move forward.

"Pushing forward, that's the question, is how do you go forward and bring in unity?" Jordan said. 

Neither Jordan or Brees offered an example of the gestures the team is contemplating. 

Brees, who said Sunday and reiterated on Wednesday that he believes every American should always stand for the anthem, understands the events that led his teammates to stay seated. 

Last Friday, President Donald Trump told a crowd at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, that NFL owners should fire any "son of a bitch" who disrespects the flag. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL player's association president DeMaurice Smith and the owners of more than half the teams in the league responded by supporting the players' right to free speech. 


More than 200 NFL players knelt or sat during the anthem, teams across the NFL linked arms with each other, and sometimes with their owner, and three teams — the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans — stayed in the locker room during the anthem. 

"I think what you saw last weekend, especially, was a direct result of the comments of the president, President Trump," Brees said. "Unfortunately I think he put all athletes, all black athletes, minority athletes, he put them in a corner and forced them to take action, so that was unfortunate that he made the comments that he made, and I don’t blame the guys for feeling like they needed to do something as a reaction to that."

Every one of the Saints interviewed on Sunday told reporters that they did not kneel in a gesture of disrespect to the flag, the country or the country's military.

Jordan, who visited military troops on a USO tour during the offseason, called an uncle in the Navy to talk about the subject. Armstead also talked to members of the military. Running back Mark Ingram, who also held his hand over his heart while sitting, wore a visor with an American flag on it. 

"It's because we love our country that we have the ability to take this knee," Jordan said. "We love being an American. It only gives us more pride to say, hey, I can show and demonstrate something, what's on my mind and what's on my heart, prove to the world that this is an important topic to pay attention to."

Asked about the negative reaction to the protests, Jordan responded by saying he has heard a lot of positive reaction to his decision. 

Jordan's hope is that the protests spark discussion between the two sides.

"In this rift, there can still be understanding," Jordan said. "That's what you're really pushing for."

What will happen around the league this weekend remains unclear. One team, the Green Bay Packers, plans to link arms in a show of unity and asked the team's fans to do the same. 

The Saints want to send the same message. 


"We want to find something that we can do together, that shows unity and does not show division," Brees said. "I think we all are very much are on the same page as far as the cause is justified. But it’s just the means by which the, whatever you want to call it, the protest, the awareness is raised. How can we do that in a respectful manner?"

Brees said he wasn't sure if the Saints would come to a decision before Sunday's game, but the plan is to find a way to signal unity together at some point in the future. 


"It's the 21st century," Jordan said. "At this point, love should overcome that hate and be the bridge upon which people can come together in light of everything that's happened."

Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.