Celebrities react to Trump, NFL 'take a knee' national anthem controversy

Among the sea of celebs who took offense with Donald Trump's view that NFL athletes who don't stand for the national anthem should be fired, one star took a more measured view.

"Returning the Favor" host Mike Rowe acknowledged that he too was "disappointed" in Trump's statement, but didn't side with the protesters either, saying everyone is just "eager for our attention."

"In my view, the real controversy here isn’t about patriotism, social justice, racial inequality, or free speech. It’s not even about the flag or the national anthem. It’s really only about one thing – what we will tolerate, and what we won't," Rowe wrote on Facebook.

Rowe said it was up to NFL viewers to decide what they would and would not tolerate from their favorite players, and that if viewers decided in great numbers that they would no longer support the league, "the matter would be resolved by Monday."

But Rowe's view was in the definite minority among celebs mostly angry with Trump’s words, after he told a crowd at an Alabama rally on Friday that players who didn’t stand up during the national anthem should get canned.

Singer Stevie Wonder takes two knees with the help of his son Kwame Wonder before performing at the 2017 Global Citizens Festival at Central Park in New York, U.S., September 23, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RC15070EC410

Singer Stevie Wonder takes two knees with the help of his son Kwame Wonder before performing at the 2017 Global Citizens Festival at Central Park.  (Reuters)

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say 'get that son of a bitch off the field right now? Out! He's fired! He's fired,'" Trump said.

The rebukes came shortly after, with celebrities posting on social media using the hashtags #takeaknee or #taketheknee to show their support for the NFL athletes. At the Global Citizen Festival on Saturday in New York, music legend Stevie Wonder kneeled with his son, Kwame Morris, on the stage.

“Tonight, I‘m taking a knee for America,” Wonder told the crowd of people. “I’m taking both knees. Both knees in prayer for our planet, our future, our leaders of the world and our globe.”

Pharrell Williams also took a knee at his concert in Charlottesville Sunday night, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"If I want to get on my knees right now for the people of my city, for the people of my state, that's what this flag is for," Williams said to concertgoers as he kneeled.

Williams never explicitly mention Trump’s name. 

Meanwhile, rapper Diddy posted video on Instagram showing “some support to all the players in the NFL.”

#TakeaKnee #DarknessAndLightTour #GLORY

A post shared by John Legend (@johnlegend) on

“If you all do whatever you do in unity, you can’t be stopped. Just do the math, man,” Diddy said. “Do the math, stick together, stand up for each other, ride with each other because believe me, we’re all we got and it has nothing to do with football or business. Y’all are our stars, y’all represent us, y’all are our strong heroes. So show that strength, please.”

“Orange is the New Black” actress Uzo Aduba posted a photo of herself kneeling with the caption: “It’s that easy #takeaknee.”

John Legend kneeled at his concert on Sunday.

"Speak the truth even if your voice shakes." Make no mistake about it we stand with Kaepernick. #TakeAKnee” Linda Sarsour said.

More than 200 NFL players protested during the 14 games played on Sunday nationwide. Football Sunday kicked off in London with dozens of players on the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars taking a knee – the first game since Trump called out the athletes for disrespecting the nation and American flag during the protests.

On Monday morning, Trump reiterated that his criticism of the anthem protest “has nothing to do with race.”

“It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!” Trump tweeted early Monday morning. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.