Pharrell Williams ‘Takes a Knee’ as Artists Join Anthem Protest

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Pharrell Williams in Charlottesville, Va., on Sunday.

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Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

The singer and producer Pharrell Williams is the latest entertainer to show solidarity with N.F.L. players protesting President Trump’s call to fire players who refuse to stand during the national anthem.

At a charity show on Sunday in Charlottesville, Va., where violent demonstrations took place in August, Mr. Williams said, “I’m in Virginia right now, I’m home. Can’t nobody tell me what to do if I want to get on my knees right now.” He then dropped onto both knees.

Mr. Williams’s display follows a wave of demonstrations across the country on Sunday as N.F.L. players knelt or locked arms during the national anthem in defiance of Mr. Trump. The “Take a Knee” protest has now grown beyond the sporting world, and entertainers and performers are joining in.

The symbolic action began in August 2016, when Colin Kaepernick, then the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, knelt to protest police brutality and racial injustice. Mr. Trump stirred up the issue anew by saying said in a speech on Friday and then in a series of tweets over the weekend that players who do not stand during the anthem should be fired.

In Charlottesville, Mr. Williams paused between songs to say: “For the people of my city, for the people of my state, that’s what that flag is for. When I think about the potential of this country and the potential of this state, potential of these people, potential of this amazing university, there is only one word that I feel on the inside.” The artist then began singing his Grammy Award-winning hit “Happy.”

Other performers have joined the “Take a Knee” demonstration. At the Global Citizen Festival in New York on Saturday, Stevie Wonder knelt on stage and said, “Tonight, I’m taking a knee for America. But not just one knee. I’m taking both knees.”

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Stevie Wonder, left, and his son Kwame Morris knelt onstage during the Global Citizen Festival in New York on Saturday.

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