NFL player protests during the national anthem continued this week, defying pleas by Commissioner Roger Goodell and some team owners to have everyone stand for the song.
While fewer teams had mass protests this week than in the early games, some players still kneeled, while others stayed in the locker room for the pre-game national anthem. The prior protests have sparked fan outrage and might have hurt television ratings, with some angry observers and at least one sponsor vowing to boycott the league in a counter-protest.
A meeting is set this coming week between NFL management, ownership, and the NFL Players Association to discuss ways to curtail the demonstrations and channel the player passions. It is at least the third such meeting, but none have completely ended the protests.
So far, no mandate on standing during the national anthem has been issued. But the Commissioner has indicated that players “should” stand, and several owners have indicated their displeasure at the activism. Most notably, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, head of the franchise nicknamed “America’s Team,” has threatened to bench players who protest during the anthem.
But players such as Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung have encouraged their fellow athletes not to cave to demands that they curb protests.
In this week’s anthem action, the biggest protest was staged by the San Francisco 49ers, the team where kneeling for the national anthem originated by former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is now out of the league.
At this week’s game against the Washington Redskins at Washington’s FedEx field, six active members of the 49ers took a knee, joined by one inactive player. It was the first game for the 49ers since their kneeling during the anthem last week prompted Vice President Mike Pence to walk out, as encouraged by President Donald Trump.
Television is doing its best to shield the protests from viewers. At the Minnesota Vikings/Green Bay Packers game in Minnesota, Packers players linked arms (the Vikings just stood), but networks cut away to commercials before the protest could be viewed.
In Atlanta, Miami Dolphins players Kenny Stills, Mike Thomas and Julius Thomas stayed in the locker room for the anthem, as they did last week. All members of the Falcons stood for the anthem, but 10 did not interlock arms.
New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions players at the Superdome in New Orleans all stood, with the Lions players linking arms for the second consecutive week.
At MetLife stadium in New Jersey’s Meadowlands, New York Jets players linked arms while the New England Patriots players put their left hand on teammates backs and right hand on their hearts.
Baltimore Ravens fans had no opportunity to boo their teams during this week’s moment of prayer, as they did two weeks ago. That’s because there was no prayer, and both the Ravens and the visiting Chicago Bears stood for the anthem.
In the late afternoon games, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Pittsburgh Steelers all stood for the national anthem.
For the Kansas City Chiefs, Ukeme Eligwe sat and teammate Marcus Peters kneeled. Both have been involved in continuing anthem protests.
The Oakland Raiders again saw running back Marshawn Lynch sit during the national anthem. All other team members stood during the anthem. For the Los Angeles Chargers, offensive tackle Russell Okung raised a fist during the national anthem while remaining standing.