The first full slate of preseason games kicked off Thursday night, bringing NFL players back into the field for more football and more protests.
Several players 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.
At TIAA Bank Field, there were no visible protests, although Leonard Fournette, Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith and TJ Yeldon chose to stay in the locker room.
It’s a personal thing and I don’t want to get into it, but everyone has their own beliefs in certain things,” Fournette said after the game.
Head coach Dave Marrone said he didn’t even know that four of his players sat out the anthem until he was asked about it later.
The only thing I can say is that the NFL and the NFLPA (players union) are obviously working together on it. I don’t know if … to my knowledge, there’s nothing out there right now on what the players can do. I think I made it clear that, for me, I’m always going to stand with my hand on my heart and I think that the people that don’t, then they’ve got to answer to it, to the media.”
The Miami Herald reported that Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, along with wide receiver Albert Wilson, knelt during the anthem before a home game against Tampa Bay.
WTVJ Miami reported that Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn raised his fist during the song.
The Philadelphia Daily News reported that Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett walked out of the tunnel during the playing of the anthem and headed to the team bench. The Daily News said Eagles captain Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback De’Vante Bausby raised their fists.
A dozen games were played Thursday night but it was not immediately clear how many saw signs of protest.
The NFL has said it won’t punish the players who took part in the protests on Thursday, reiterating the league’s decision to shelve its new policy regarding conduct surrounding the anthem until it reaches an agreement with the NFL Players Association.
The league noted that while players won’t be disciplined, it expects all players on the field to stand during the presentation of the flag and the anthem.
“Personnel who do not wish to do so can choose to remain in the locker room,” the league added.
The anthem controversy has been rumbling since 2016, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem to draw attention to racial injustice.
Kaepernick tweeted Thursday night, lauding the action of two players who protested.
The debate ratcheted up a notch in 2017 when US President Donald Trump said kneeling players showed “total disrespect for our great country.”
After withstanding two seasons of backlash against players kneeling, raising fists and displaying other means of protest during the anthem, the NFL said it would fine teams with protesting players directly, who in turn would have it in their discretion to enforce pregame anthem observations in their own ways.
After confusion, the NFL decided to take its new policy back to the drawing board and consult with the players association.
“The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue,” read the joint statement. “In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA’s grievance and on the NFL’s anthem policy.”
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to remove a reference to 10 Giants players kneeling in the endzone. The players did this before the anthem was played and may not have been protesting the anthem. It is a common practice by some players to kneel and pray in the endzone before the anthem begins.