NFLers Use Preseason Anthems To Continue Raising Awareness
Several NFLers on Thursday "took a knee, raised fists or did not take to the field while the National Anthem was played before a dozen preseason games began across the country," according to Close, Hanna & Dotson of CNN.com. Dolphins WRs Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson "knelt during the anthem" before a home game against the Buccaneers, while DE Robert Quinn "raised his fist." Eagles DE Michael Bennett "walked out of the tunnel during the playing of the anthem and headed to the team bench" while S Malcolm Jenkins and CB De'Vante Bausby "raised their fists." Several Jaguars players were "not on the field for the playing of the anthem" (CNN.com, 8/10). Before Rams-Ravens, "both teams stood, but while most of the Ravens lined up shoulder to shoulder on the sideline," LB Tim Williams "stood alone in front of the bench with his back toward the field" (AP, 8/10). The NFL said that it "will not discipline players for any protests during the national anthem" while it attempts to reach a resolution with the NFLPA over its policy. However, in DC, Mark Maske notes the league "reiterated that it expects players who are on the field to stand for the anthem" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/10). President Trump took to Twitter early Friday morning to predictably express his displeasure with the protests (THE DAILY).
FLYING THE FIST: In Philadelphia, Les Bowen notes the anthem policy passed by NFL owners in March "reopened what had seemed to be a healing wound." Jenkins said of his decision to continue raising his fist, "It was just a culmination of kind of how the offseason went. Where we are now, I think it’s just important that we keep this conversation going, that we don’t let it get stagnant. As we understand it, everybody’s kind of waiting to see what the league is going to do. Better that we not stop what we’ve been standing up for." Jenkins said that he "didn’t know Bausby was going to join him." Bausby said that he "raised his fist all last season, but he was on the practice squad, not in uniform and not standing with the uniformed players." Bausby: "I don’t call it a protest, I just call it bringing attention to what’s going on. I don’t really like the word ‘protest’ because when people hear the word ‘protest’ they think of it in a negative way. I’m just raising awareness" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/10).
SIDE BY SIDE: Wilson said of his decision to kneel, "It was something I was going to do regardless if [Stills] was there or not. But to have somebody as passionate about the situation as I am is great that we can do it together." Stills and Wilson both said that they "did not plan to kneel side by side." Stills: "Being a part of this protest hasn’t been easy. I thought I was going to be by myself out there, and today I had an angel with me with Albert being out there. I’m grateful that he sees what’s happening and he wants to do something about it as well." Wilson: "I’m on a platform that I have the right to protest. It’s a peaceful protest. We’re not harming anybody. We just want people to continue to know what’s going on" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/10). Quinn said, "Everyone’s brought up the word protest; it’s not a protest. It’s an awareness. I think the word protest kinda segregates this country. This country preaches freedom and unity, and that’s all I’m trying to do is preach freedom and unity." He added, "If you believe in something, no matter the consequences, you stand by it" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 8/10). Quinn: "As a black man in this world, I've got an obligation to raise awareness. If no one wants to live in unity, that's why we're in the situation we're in" (AP, 8/9).
WAITING FOR A DECISION: In Newark, Ryan Dunleavy notes Giants S Michael Thomas "stood at the very end of the row of Giants all acting in unison as the national anthem played." Thomas during the last two seasons with the Dolphins "took a knee." Thomas said, "For me and for the guys who are involved and are passionate, we know the NFL and NFLPA are in discussions. Out of respect for them, I chose not to do anything today. But I'm not committing to doing anything right now or committing to not doing anything right now" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8/10).
JACKSONVILLE LANDING: Jaguars LB Telvin Smith, who was one of four players that remained in the tunnel while the anthem played, said, "I’ve got beliefs and I did what I did. I don’t know if it’s going to be every week. But as a man, I’ve got to stand for something." Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said that the four players "did not inform him of their plans beforehand." Marrone: "I’m always going to stand with my hand on my heart. And I think the people that don’t, they’ve got to answer to the media" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 8/9). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote it was "clearly a mistake to not inform Marrone of their plans," and it likely "won’t happen again" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 8/9). YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Adelson writes the four Jags players feel they "do not need to account for their choice," but their "lack of an explanation will allow vehement critics to deride them for not explaining their viewpoint." Adelson: "If you’re going to take that kind of stand, don’t you have to explain what it is you stand for? Otherwise what kind of stand is it?" This is the "catch-22 for protesting players: hold their tongues and risk derision for not putting words to their feelings; or speak out and risk derision for whatever they say" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/10).
NOT GOING OUT: In Seattle, Bob Condotta notes three Seahawks players "stayed in the locker room rather than stand on the sidelines for the anthem" -- OT Duane Brown, DE Branden Jackson and DT Quinton Jefferson. All three were among the group of Seahawks who "sat for the anthem last season." Brown said after the game that the three were "making a statement again this season." The players confirmed after the game that they "stayed inside for the anthem as a method of protest." Brown: "I didn’t want to kneel but I did want to be inside. I didn’t want to be a part of it (the anthem)." Brown said that the entire team "met recently to discuss how to handle the anthem." He added, "We all met as a team, everyone was clear on my decision and everyone understands and supports it" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/10).
NOTABLE SHIFT: In N.Y., Belson & Hoffman note the 49ers, who had been "one of the more active political teams in previous years, did not appear to have any players kneeling during the anthem before their game," but WR Marquise Goodwin had his "right arm raised for the duration of the song" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/10).