Protesting during the national anthem is the issue that won’t die for the National Football League. Fired up once again by a tweet from President Donald Trump, this week in the NFL saw some hasty plans emerge that may finally put an end to the controversial actions by players – but that will have to wait until next season, not during the current campaign.
Rumored changes in rules during the off-season have emerged in reports indicating that the NFL plans to keep teams in the locker room in 2018 during the national anthem. That would eliminate the possibility of public protests during the song, but would make for an awkward transition between warm-ups and the start of games.
No official decisions have been made, and it is not clear if a formal vote among league owners would be needed. The league currently does not mandate that players stand during the national anthem, merely suggesting that they “should” stand. Some players – most notably, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch in last Sunday’s game in Mexico City – have doubled-down by sitting during the US national anthem and standing for the national anthems of Mexico and the UK.
For now, the NFL seems content to endure kneeling, sitting, and fist-in-the-air protests by a small percentage of its players. While talks between the NFL Players Association, league officials and ownership ostensibly continue, there appears to be no breakthrough announcement imminent on ending the protests this season.
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Donald Trump took notice of the continued protests this week. He fired off a tweet indicating that he felt avoiding the issue until next season was a bad idea.
One interesting tidbit emerged this week, as former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was sought by a Hollywood casting agent for a potential appearance in an upcoming project. Kaepernick, the man who started the kneeling protests during the 2016 season, has a relatively free schedule, as he’s no longer playing football. He did show up at Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco bay area on Thanksgiving to support a protest by Native Americans.
This week’s NFL anthem protestors basically constitute a roundup of the usual national anthem kneelers, sitters and fist-raisers.
On Thanksgiving, Los Angeles Chargers tackle Russell Okung raised his right fist during the national anthem. He had not protested over the last two weeks, as the NFL saluted the military, but resumed his actions from earlier this season as of this game.
New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon took a knee before his team’s game with the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving night. Vernon has protested throughout the season, even in games he was not dressed because of injury, and indicated after the game he has every intention to continue.
In early Sunday games, Miami Dolphins Kenny Stills, tight end Julius Thomas and safety Michael Thomas all kneeled before the national anthem. The trio has protested throughout the season, but had previously stayed in the locker room for a handful of games. They recently re-emerged when granted permission by their coach, Adam Gase, who indicated their would be no repercussions.
The Kansas City Chiefs saw defensive back Marcus Peters stay in the team tunnel during the national anthem. Peters has previously taken a knee or sat during the anthem.
For the Philadelphia Eagles, defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, safety Rodney McLeod, and defensive lineman Chris Long continued to raise their fists during the national anthem.
Oakland Raiders running back Lynch remained undeterred by President Trump’s tweets. He again took a seat during the national anthem before his team’s game against the Denver Broncos. Lynch, typically surly with the press, has not explained his actions in the matter.
The Los Angeles Rams saw linebacker Robert Quinn raise his right fist during the national anthem, with punter Johnny Hekker again putting his arm around him in solidarity. The duo have staged that protest for almost the whole season. Teammates Todd Gurley and receiver Tavon Austin linked arms, a gesture they previously deployed. Their opponents, the New Orleans Saints, again kneeled before the anthem as a team and rose when the song started. Several coaches and players linked arms, as they have for weeks.
Finally, in a battle between the two teams who have had the most national anthem protestors during the season, the Seattle Seahawks saw a return to sitting during the anthem by Michael Bennett, Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Marcus Smith, Quinton Jefferson, Cliff Avril, Nazair Jones, Sheldon Richardson and Dion Jordan. Many of the players had refrained from such actions over the last two weeks. Lineman Duane Brown and Branden Jackson kneeled during the song.
The 49ers saw receiver Marquise Goodwin, safety Eric Reid and linebacker Eli Harold kneel during the anthem. Safety Adrian Colbert and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas stood next to them with a hand on their shoulders in solidarity.
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