(Reuters) – Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has called for calm after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in a bid to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election won by Joe Biden.
Protesters forced their way past metal security barricades, broke windows and scaled walls to fight their way into the Capitol.
Police said four people died during the chaos – one from gunshot wounds and three from medical emergencies – and 52 people were arrested.
The incident drew strong reactions from a number of former and current NFL players including Wilson, who urged people to show unity during a turbulent time.
“What we do need to do is come together,” Wilson told reporters. “It has to start with love, with people coming together. Our leaders and everything else in our country. We need safety, we need protection for our children and people.”
Retired former Super Bowl champion Jermon Bushrod condemned the incident on Twitter, saying: “I’m sorry but these are not ‘protesters’. They’re thugs, rioters, terrorists and whatever other words the media likes to use to describe people in these type of unfortunate events.”
Bushrod’s sentiment was echoed by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman.
“Never thought Americans would let terrorists into the capital without a fight….sad day,” Sherman tweeted.
The NFL has been caught up in a debate over players kneeling during the pre-game anthem to protest racial injustice since then 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the practice in 2016 and helped reinvigorate the Black Lives Matter movement.
Trump has been a vocal critic of players “taking the knee”, saying previously it was disrespecting the country and the flag, and the controversy was rekindled amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody in May.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III and former Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte said the response by law enforcement to events in Washington was proof of the racial disparities in policing.
“The difference in the treatment between races in America is on full display,” Griffin wrote on Twitter.
Forte tweeted: “Now y’all know if a crowd of Black people were to gather and do this to a playground let alone the Capitol it’d be a wrap for each person on the other side of law enforcement.”
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Alex Richardson)