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Lions' Akeem Spence wanted to kneel last week, but team comes first

Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Football

At first he felt emboldened, but days after he learned that his father lost a construction job because of his protest, Akeem Spence decided not to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem.

Spence said he thought about the impact his protest might have on his two young brothers, ages 10 and 4 back home in Florida, and mostly he decided to lock arms because that's what his Lions teammates wanted to do before last week's game against the Minnesota Vikings.

"I'm a team guy first so we spoke about it as a team and that's what we wanted to do," Spence said. "As badly as I wanted to take a knee, I respect the guys in this locker room, I respect this team and that's what we wanted to do."

Rather than kneel, Spence said he prayed during the anthem for "this country, my family, my loved ones and (the families of) all these guys in here."

"That's all I really care about," Spence said. "Just everybody in this country just trying to love one another and just work, let's help one another and just build a better country cause we're in turmoil right now."

Spence spent about 15 minutes talking to reporters Wednesday in his first public comments since he tweeted that his father, Floyd, lost contract work because of his decision to protest comments made by President Donald Trump days before the team's Sept. 24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Spence said his father, who owns Spence Concrete, was told by a contractor via text message that he did not get a job building a beach house because of Spence's decision to kneel for the anthem.

"It was like, I seen your son take a knee, and I'm not going to give you this job," Spence said when asked what the text message said. "He knows I stand strong in my beliefs and he's supporting me in every type of way, so he's just like this is some of the backlash you get from it. Of course my father's my family, so we suffered a few consequences, but like I told him, who cares? There's other opportunities that's going to present itself and I hope there are bigger opportunities. Who cares? We're just going to pray for this guy and just hope the best and just keep it pushing."

Spence said he personally received "10-plus" voicemails from people he did not know who took issue with his decision to kneel.

He declined to say what the voicemails said, though he said none rose to the level of the death threats Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker received.

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