National Football League linebacker Bobby Wagner laid one of the most exciting hits of the season this week on an animal rights advocate who ran onto the field of play to protest criminal charges filed against two other activists.
“I just saw someone running on the field, and [it looked like] he shouldn’t have been on the field,” Wagner, who plays for the Los Angeles Rams, said when reporters asked him about handling the protester Monday night. “I saw that security had a little problem, so I helped them.”
Video of Wagner lowering his right shoulder and flattening the protester — after the protester ran past stadium security guards and up the sideline holding a pink smoke grenade — during the Rams’ game against the San Francisco 49ers quickly went viral, with some speaking approvingly of the player intervention.
The main television broadcast did not show the moment, but angles of it were captured on cellphone video and an alternate feed.
“Yes! Yes! That’s what we’re talking about,” former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning said while commenting on one of the alternate broadcasts of the game the 49ers hosted. “Wagner, a veteran linebacker – drop him. Now, get out, and let these guys take over.”
What set the stage for the viral moment pitting Wagner against the protester he leveled was the alleged decision by members of the San Francisco-area animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere to walk into Utah’s Circle Four Farms hog production facility in 2017 and take two piglets to. save them from being slaughtered.
Authorities later charged five members of Direct Action Everywhere, with three plea agreements, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Two did not, and that pair — Wayne Hsiung and Paul Darwin Picklesimer — are scheduled to undergo a jury trial beginning Wednesday.
To raise awareness of the charges for which Hsiung and Picklesimer are on trial, several members of Direct Action Everywhere attended the 49ers-Rams game at Levi’s Stadium, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Two came down from the stands, evaded security and ran onto the field carrying grenades emitting pink smoke. Security guards cornered the first of the demonstrators but struggled to get hold of the second.
That’s when Wagner, who happened to play college football at Utah State, stepped forward and drilled his shoulder into the fleeing protester’s chest.
Rams linebacker Takkarist McKinley also grabbed the protester when Wagner hit him. This put a definitive end to the disruption of the game, with security staff soon transporting the downed protester out of sight.
Wagner’s hit on Monday was far from the best-known moment of his playing career. He helped the Seattle Seahawks win a Super Bowl over Manning’s Denver Broncos at the end of the 2013 season and earned a coveted Associated Press first-team, All-Pro selection six times.
Meanwhile, if convicted at their trial on felony theft and burglary charges, Hsiung and Picklesimer could face more than 10 years in prison.