Several NFL owners responded with support for their players. A few of the statements issued by team owners, presidents and even, in the case of the Seattle Seahawks, their head coach, used pointed language against Trump — whether or not they called him by name.
Will the players' demonstrations backfire? We might not know the effect of this week in the NFL for some time and whether observers will respond negatively. Foster said the players are willing to take the risk of that happening.
"We’ll see five years from now it viewership is cut in half," he said. "Who knows?"
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he had no part in the team's actions before kickoff. He stood on an eerily bare sideline while his players waited in the tunnel. Tomlin stood up for them then, just as he did after the game when asked about it.
"This was placed upon us by circumstance," Tomlin said. "I heward rumblings of guys talking during the course of [Saturday] and my contention was that we not allow politics to divide us. We are football players and a football team.
"If anything needed to be done, I asked those guys to discuss it and whatever they discussed, we have 100 percent participation or we do nothing. They discussed it for an appropriate length of time. They couldn't come to an understanding, so they chose to remove themselves from it."
As for what's next? How race relations improve? What the players can do to help? That's the tricky part. The Steelers know they won some observers over Sunday. They also likely made some other folks very mad. A snapshot of society today, just magnified — and amplified — quite a bit. This isn't just a football thing, naturally.
"We gave everybody this," Foster said. "I don’t know what is after this. That’s what happens. Guys say, ‘do something,’ and if you don’t do something you’re just a rich jock. What happens? What do you guys say? That’s my question to you. It shouldn’t be just on us."
Steelers TE Vance McDonald spent last season with in San Francisco with the 49ers in what was Ground Zero for much of this debate. Colin Kaepernick took a knee during a preseason game in August, and more than 13 months later, the debate is hotter than it ever has been.
McDonald says he understands the reality of seeking equality — not only the collateral damage that can happen along the way but also that it's likely impossible. But it's the kind of cause he's willing to fight for, side by side with his teammates.
"Everyone is searching for equality and you’re never going to find it," McDonald said. "It’s a really unique thing. I am just glad that guys take the initiative and take the stance on the platform that they’re given. That’s what makes the world so special. Just going about it the right way."