Week 1 of the NFL preseason got underway Thursday night and of the 12 games, four games included some form of player protest during the national anthem.
In Philadelphia, Malcolm Jenkins and De’Vante Bausby raised their first before their game against the Steelers; the Jaguars‘ Telvin Smith, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon waited in the tunnel before facing the Saints; the Seahawks‘ Quinton Jefferson, Branden Jackson and Duane Brown did the same before kickoff against the Colts. The Dolphins‘ Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson were the only players to kneel during the anthem, while teammate Robert Quinn raised his fist before facing the Buccaneers.
President Donald Trump wasted little time blasting the players, something he has done repeatedly since last September.
“Quite frankly, guys in our league don’t like being told what to do, what they can and can’t do,” Jenkins told Philly.com. “We don’t have this type of policies for the other causes we support, whether it be our ‘Salute to Service,’ or breast cancer awareness, or anything else. It’s just when you start talking about black folks, quite frankly. It’s disheartening, but we’ll continue to be creative.”
Meanwhile, Stills said he and Wilson didn’t coordinate their decision to kneel.
“It just happened that way,” Stills said, adding that he had the support of coach Adam Gase. “When I’m on a knee, most of the time I’m praying, and thank God for having Albert next to me. Being a part of this protest hasn’t been easy. I thought I was going to be by myself out there. Today I had an angel with me with Albert being out there. I’m grateful he sees what’s happening, and he wants to do something about it as well.”
Stills expects to protest during the regular season, and it would take “a lot” for him to stop.
“A good first step as a league would be acknowledging what they’re doing to Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid,” Stills said, via USAToday.com’s Lindsay Jones. “You can’t say as a league you support the players and the protests, but blackball the players that initially started the protests.”
Colin Kaepernick, who in August 2016 was the first player to kneel during the anthem to protest social injustice and was out of the league all last season, tweeted his support of Stills on Thursday.
The latest protests come after the league issued a controversial new anthem policy in late May that was widely criticized. The policy was shelved in late July so the NFL and NFLPA could work jointly on a solution. The NFL said in a statement following Thursday night’s protest that no players would be punished.
“The NFL has engaged in constructive discussions with the NFL Players Association regarding the anthem and issues of equality and social justice that are of concern to many Americans,” the statement read. “While those discussions continue, the NFL has agreed to delay implementing or enforcing any club work rules that could result in players being disciplined for their conduct during the performance of the anthem.
“Meanwhile, there has been no change in the NFL’s policy regarding the national anthem. The anthem will continue to be played before every game, and all player and non-player personnel on the field at that time are expected to stand during the presentation of the flag and performance of the anthem. Personnel who do not wish to do can choose to remain in the locker room.”