Pharrell Williams got down on two knees as he performed at a charity concert in Charlottesville, supporting a gesture by NFL players who have started kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to racial injustice.
The 44-year-old singer, who hails from Virginia, made the statement at Dave Matthews’ Concert for Charlottesville: An Evening of Music and Unity on Sunday night, held in the wake of last month’s white supremacist protests and clashes in the town that left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and injuring 19 others.
“If I want to get on my knees right now for the people of my city, for the people of my state, that’s what this flag is for,” Williams told the crowd, who greeted the gesture with cheers, according to Billboard.
Taking place at the University of Virginia’s Scott Stadium, the concert was free for members of the Charlottesville and University of Virginia communities. Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, and Chris Stapleton were among the performers.
“Tonight, I’m taking a knee for America,” Wonder said as he knelt with his son Kwame Morris. “Not just one knee, but I’m taking both knees. Both knees in prayer for our planet, our future, leaders of our world and our globe. Amen.”
On Sunday, several NFL teams showed solidarity for their fellow players. Some knelt while others linked arms with each other.
During a rally speech in Alabama on Friday, Trump stated, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out, you’re fired.’”
He followed this up by pouring more gasoline on the fire with a series of tweets. “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,” he wrote. “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
Numerous celebrities — including Diddy — have also joined in standing behind the players, causing a resurgence of the #TakeAKnee hashtag on social media.
In August 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines for refusing to stand for the national anthem.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said at the time. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”