NEW YORK (AP) – The NFL says the message players and teams are trying to express is being lost in a political firestorm.

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Thursday the issues have been “overtaken by political forces” following President Trump’s criticism of the league, team owners and players for kneeling during the national anthem.

READ MORE: Shamira Wright-Sanders Charged In Connection To Fatal Shooting Of Child Inside Her Car At Walmart

More than 200 players either knelt or used other means as expressions of unity. Lockhart says such actions are not a protest against the anthem or the flag.

READ MORE: Johnson County Resident Timothy Vandeventer Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison For Child Porn

He adds that those making the gestures are “under attack” and the original “lesson has been forgotten.” He stresses that is important for “everyone to understand what they are talking about, to not see everything in terms of who is up or down politically.”

MORE NEWS: Police Searching For Suspect Who Robbed And Shot Victim Behind Farmers Branch City Hall

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)