New Orleans, LA – New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton responded to criticism of his players kneeling during a tribute to murdered New Orleans Officer Marcus McNeil on Sunday.
The crowd loudly booed as the Saints players kneeled during the moment of silence before the anthem.
Payton says that the players had a plan to kneel in protest before the anthem and they just stuck with the plan even when the tribute to Officer McNeil was added.
Payton said that the players didn’t know ahead of time that there would be a moment of silence for Officer McNeil when they planned their protest.
"You had a triangular effect of misunderstanding," Payton said, according to Joel Erickson with The Advocate.
“It was very simple. No. 1, the players were going to kneel and stand for the anthem, that's understood.
“Then No. 2, there was a moment of silence for the slain officer, and everyone realized, let's have a moment of silence. I don't think it was anything more than that."
While the Saints kneeled, none of the Lions players kneeled.
All players stood during the national anthem.
New Orleans Police Department Officer Marcus McNeil, 29, was murdered early Friday morning.
The incident happened just after midnight when a group of three officers on patrol spotted something suspicious.
Officer McNeil stepped out of his car to investigate and was alone when he got into a scuffle with the suspect. Officer McNeil tried to Taser the suspect, who then shot him repeatedly.
On video of the incident Officer McNeil could be heard screaming, then there was a final shot and Officer McNeil was found dead with his gun still in its holster.
Other officers arrived and shot the suspect, who then ran into an apartment.
The gunman remained barricaded in the apartment until he eventually surrendered to a SWAT team.
Officer Marcus McNeil leaves behind his wife, Brittiny, and two small children.
Brittiny told New Orleans Magazine that Officer McNeil had always wanted to join New Orleans PD because he wanted to make a difference in the city which is plagued with crime and poverty.
Officer McNeil's killer was identified as Darren Bridges. He was in possession of various controlled substances at the time of his arrest.