After last week’s widespread demonstrations during the national anthem by players, coaches, and owners across the NFL, many teams attempted more generic displays of unity during Week 4.
As the afternoon games kicked off on Sunday, many teams opted to take the strategy that the Cowboys took on Monday Night Football last week — kneeling together before the anthem, and then standing while the song played.
It’s a move that seemingly attempted to please all and offend none, and has received poor reviews from many of those hoping for the purpose of Colin Kaepernick’s original protest to be preserved.
After the Cowboys’ decision to kneel before the anthem last week, many believed it neutered Kaepernick’s original message — bringing more attention to police brutality and inequality people of colour face across the criminal justice system. Trump on the other hand, called the act of kneeling before the anthem “big progress.”
On Sunday, the tone was again set by the early game held in London between the Saints and Dolphins. While three Dolphins players — Julius Thomas, Michael Thomas, and Kenny Stills — knelt through the anthem, the entirety of the Saints sideline opted to kneel before the anthem before standing in unison as the song played, as quarterback Drew Brees had announced before the game.
As the day went on, many teams followed this course of action, with various players choosing to continue their own protests.
Reception to the group demonstrations were mixed at best. Ahead of the Ravens-Steelers game in Baltimore, the PA announcer asked fans to join the Ravens in a moment of prayer for “kindness, unity, equality and justice for all Americans,” before the anthem played. With no flag unfurled and no anthem playing, the team took a knee in prayer and was met with boos from the crowd. The announcer thanked the audience for the moment of prayer and the players stood for the anthem.
The Ravens were not the only team to get this type of response from their fans.
Protests of this nature first garnered widespread attention when Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem before games during the 2016 NFL season to protest systemic racism and police brutality against people of colour.
While Kaepernick is currently out of the league, protests of a similar nature had become more common across the NFL, with players including Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch, Seth DeValve, and Eagles teammates Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long all demonstrating in their own way before kickoff.
The back-and-forth between Trump and the NFL began last week after President Trump spoke at a rally for Luther Strange, a Republican candidate for Alabama’s senate seat that Trump supported before he lost to Roy Moore. Speaking to the crowd, the president said of players who protest during the anthem, “Get that son of a b—- off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”
After the president’s comments, players and teams put on a show of unity during Week 3, with more players kneeling for the anthem than ever before. Other teams teams chose to stand together arm-in-arm with each other, in a trend set early in the day by the Ravens-Jaguars game in London that carried on throughout the day. The Seahawks and Titans decided to forego the national anthem altogether, remaining in their locker rooms as the song played ahead of their game.
While smaller shows of solidarity will likely continue throughout the year, chances are more and more teams will do their best to find agreeable middle-ground similar to what football fans saw on Sunday.
Jets fans now booing players who kneel BEFORE the national anthem, and then stand for the song, supposedly for disrespecting the … field?
— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) October 1, 2017
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