LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - George Clooney on Tuesday became the latest entertainer to add his voice to a divisive national debate over the rights of Americans to stage silent protests during the playing of the national anthem, saying he was praying for unity.
In a short poem, the Oscar-winning actor and director wrote that he was praying for America's children, police, those in the military, and that "dissent will always be protected in this great country."
The "Ocean's Eleven" star did not mention U.S. President Donald Trump by name but his poem follows five days of attacks by Trump on National Football League (NFL) players who kneel during the playing of the U.S. national anthem to protest racial disparities in the justice system.
On Tuesday, Trump called on the NFL to ban players who kneel.
"I pray that we can find more that unites us than divides us. I pray that our nation's leaders want to do the same," Clooney wrote in the poem, written for The Daily Beast news website.
"And when I pray, I kneel," he concluded.
Clooney is the latest celebrity to support the #TakeAKnee protest that has seen the likes of singers Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Pharrell Williams, Bette Midler and film maker Ava DuVernay drop to their knees at concerts, in photos posted to their social media accounts, or issue messages of support.
A photo posted by "X Files" stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny linking arms and kneeling on the set of their TV show, was a top trending item on Twitter on Monday night.
"American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks, who sang the "Star-Spangled Banner" before Monday night's game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals, had the bible reference "Prov. 31:8-9" clearly written on her hand.
The passage referred to in the Book of Proverbs reads, "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves."
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by David Gregorio)