15 Mar 2018by tayo123
NFL in London: Arsenal fan Jay Ajayi on Trump and ’emojional’ Wembley return
by: KEN ELLIOTT
Star running back and Arsenal fan Jay Ajayi is back in town with a passion to play at Wembley, maybe meet his idol Thierry Henryagain and enjoy the fun of being the only player in the NFL to have his own Twitter emoji.
Fans can see the emoji of Ajay (@JayTrain23) by including #JayTrain in their Tweets.
But if you want to see the real thing, he will be at Wembley on Sunday, when the Dolphins take on the New Orleans Saints in the second of the NFL’s autumn International Series games in London.
The emoji is a bit of fun, but the first serious issue in play is the Dolphins picking themselves up from a 20-6 loss to the New York Jets last Sunday to leave them with a 1-1 record so far heading into Sunday.
The second issue is the row over what President Donald Trump sees as players disrespecting the American national anthem by ‘taking a knee’ when The Star-Spangled Banner is played.
This was ignited last week with Trump’s call for team owners to “fire” players who he believed were showing disrespect to the flag.
At last Sunday’s game in London between Jacksonville and Baltimore, 27 players and team staff either went down on one knee or locked arms in solidarity following the president’s comments.
It spread to the other games in the NFL last week and is likely to rumble on into this weekend’s fixtures.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the controversial movement last year when he refused to stand during The Star-Spangled Banner to protest about police brutality against the African-American community.
Ajayi, born in Manor House to Nigerian parents and just a decent quarterback’s pass from Emirates Stadium, moved to the US when he was seven.
He took a knee during the anthem prior to the game against the Jets. Why did he feel moved to?
He said: “I think it was something that was on my heart. I’ve been thinking about it for a little bit and I think it was, first, what the President said kind of sparked it a little bit and then, I think, I thought it was the right time for me personally.”
And does he intend to repeat the gesture at Wembley? “I’m not sure yet, but I think I will. I’m not sure,” he said.
Ajayi has another concern about a knee heading into the game… the one that has been troubling him all year and stopped him practising before the Dolphins flew over this week.
He is expected to play against the Saints as his club nurses their 24-year-old talent through week by week.
Two years ago, he was in London as a rookie with the Dolphins, but a rib injury kept him out of that game. He does not want a repeat of that and remains positive.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’m getting to go home. My whole family is flying out. It’s a special thing and I think it will be even more special when I get there and the game’s about to kick off. I think that will be a great moment for me and for my family.”
Ajayi also has a passion for fashion and today launches his own lifestyle brand in London, called YURP. “It stands for Your Unlocked Raw Power,” he said. “It’s my platform that I’ve been working on, myself and my YURP team, for over a year and a half. It’s exciting to launch in London. That’s where my roots are.”
As for his beloved Arsenal, he will not get to see them as they are also playing on Sunday, against Brighton. He is also unlikely to get the surprise he received the last time he was in town. While being interviewed at the Sky Sports studios, Arsenal great Henry popped in to say hello.
Ajayi was so pleased to meet his hero, he admits he was reduced to giggles.
Now, Ajayi is on track to become a hero to many in his chosen sport. He is one of only four players in NFL history to rush for back-to-back 200-yard games, and one of four to hit the 200-yard mark three times in a season.
Only Ajayi and fellow running backs OJ Simpson (Buffalo Bills) and Earl Campbell (Houston Oilers) have achieved both landmarks.
If Ajayi does kneel on Sunday, but not on the sore one, the ‘Londoner’ can rise up to new heights in the NFL.
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