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Hertha Berlin players support NFL protests before Bundesliga game

Before their game vs. Schalke, Hertha knelt and locked arms for "tolerance and responsibility."

BERLIN -- Hertha Berlin players and officials kneeled in solidarity with the recent NFL protests ahead of their Bundesliga match against Schalke on Saturday.

A number of NFL players have "taken a knee" in recent months and German club Hertha showed solidarity for the ongoing protests in the United States before their game on Saturday.

"Berlin is colourful," the Hertha stadium announcer told the fans in attendance. "Hertha BSC stands for diversity and against violence.

"For this reason, we are joining forces with the protest of our fellow American athletes to take a stand against discrimination.

"For a tolerant Berlin, both now and forevermore."

After the teams greeted each other prior to kick-off, Hertha -- whose matchday squad included players from 10 different nations -- kneeled in their own half and looked toward the marathon gate of Berlin's Olympiastadion.

In the dugout, Hertha's Hungarian coach Pal Dardai, the entire staff and substitutes also kneeled.

Jonathan Klinsmann, son of former U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen, is the only American player at Hertha but was not involved in the matchday squad on Saturday.

Speaking after the game, Hertha sporting executive Michael Preetz told reporters: "We live in times in which football clubs, who are very much in the spotlight, must work out how to position themselves, and this is in tune with the values and the philosophy of Hertha Berlin.

"I've been here for 21 years, and we've always been against discrimination of any kind and against racism. We are Berlin. We are an open-minded city, and we stand for diversity, and that's what the team and the club wanted to stand up for today."

Ivorian forward Salomon Kalou told reporters: "Hertha always stands against racism. If we can fight against that as a team, and as the city of Berlin, then that's something we want to do.

"I think Hertha is living a good example to fight against this phenomenon.

"The idea comes from the whole team. We stand against racism and we will always fight this behaviour as a team, as a city."

Asked if the idea had come from the NFL, he replied: "No. I mean yes. But we are in a different situation.

"As Hertha we always fight against racism. For us, kneeling down is a way of fighting against this kind of behaviour. It should not exist in any kind of sport. Not in NFL, and not in football or soccer, like they call it in the U.S. -- it shouldn't exist in any sport, period. For us, it's a good example to show."

Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.

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