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Vikings and Lynx teams lock arms during nat'l anthem; Lynx lose in final seconds

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Minnesota Vikings players lock arms during the national anthem
Minnesota Vikings players lock arms during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jim Mone | AP

Updated: 9:02 p.m. | Posted: 12:45 p.m.

The Minnesota Vikings locked arms together in a show of solidarity during the national anthem at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday. And hours later, Minnesota Lynx players did the same as their WNBA championship game got underway at Williams Arena.

Sunday morning's demonstrations began when about two dozen NFL players with the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars knelt on a field in London.  And when game time came for the Vikings, the team's players, staff and owners stood on the sideline together.  They were locked arm-in-arm during the national anthem, sung a capella by the Minnesota-based singing group Home Free. 

None of the Vikings players took a knee, although at least two members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did kneel for the anthem.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers players take a knee during anthem
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson, center, takes a knee during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Jim Mone | AP

Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf released a statement before the game saying they appreciated the diverse perspectives of the team, and that they fully support the right of players, coaches and staff to "respectfully and peacefully express their beliefs." 

The wave of national demonstrations came in response to President Trump's suggestion that the NFL fire or suspend players who have knelt on the sidelines during the anthem.

Vikings fans watched quietly and sang along to the anthem, and none appeared to leave in response to the Buccaneers protest, as the president had also suggested.

The Vikings beat the Buccaneers 34-17.

And when the national anthem played at Williams Arena a little while later, the Minnesota Lynx also stood arm and arm, facing the flag. Last summer the team sparked controversy and protests of their own, when they wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts before a game at Target Center.

Members of the Minnesota Lynx lock arms at the national anthem plays
Members of the Minnesota Lynx lock arms at the national anthem plays during Game 1 of the WNBA championships.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

On Sunday, the Lynx hosted the Los Angeles Sparks for the first of a best-of-five WNBA championship series.

But the Sparks weren't on the court with the Lynx for the anthem.

They took a cue from the Pittsburgh Steelers, and retreated to their locker room as Air Force Sgt. Johnny Holliday played the anthem.

Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike said the team made a last-minute decision to forego the ritual.

"With athletes we want to be on this main stage and lead our communities and set an example," said Ogwumike. "What we agreed with, with what the head coach of the Steelers said, some people may want to kneel, some people may not want to, but we want to show everyone that the team does as the team does, so we want to stand in solidarity together."

The politics didn't seem to distract the Sparks, who started the game with a 12-nothing run that the Lynx struggled to overcome the rest of the game.

Fans, looking for solace for last year's championship defeat, were dejected. Laurie Aaronson, of Albert Lea, Minn., has been to every game for 19 years and could hardly believe the Lynx slow start — they didn't get a single rebound in the first quarter.

"You just can't come back from 28-2, 28 to 4. You just can't," said Aaronson.

Fan Ronnie Lloyd, of Coon Rapids, kept the faith, even as the game slipped away.

"Right now it's tough, but you know the team that we have, we're going to bounce back, no matter who we're playing. Because we need this revenge, playing against these Sparks right now," said Lloyd as the clock ticked down.

The Lynx lost 85-84 in the final seconds of the game. The team plays a second game at Williams Arena on Tuesday night.