The first national anthem of the NFL season didn’t have a widespread demonstration, although an NFL policy outlawing it has been tabled.
The only thing close to a demonstration came from Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett. He was wandering around near the bench during the anthem, then took a seat right near the end of the song. Other Eagles who have demonstrated, most notably safety Malcolm Jenkins, stood for the anthem. Jenkins raised a fist during the anthem last season, but he did not Thursday.
NBC showed the anthem, which was performed by hometown group Boyz II Men. The network didn’t show Bennett.
NFL’s failed policy on hold
The anthem wouldn’t still be a story if it wasn’t for the NFL’s bumbling in the matter. Think about this: The NFL wanted the story to go away, somehow gave life to it with a policy absolutely nobody liked, and the policy isn’t even in effect. The NFL had to walk it back to have some discussions with the NFLPA, and the matter hasn’t been resolved despite some meetings last month.
That’s how we got to Week 1 with the players able to demonstrate as they saw fit, just like last season, but with even more attention due to a policy that had to be shelved because it was poorly thought through. The NFL’s missteps on the anthem issue can never be understated. It’s amazing.
But, the players have said all along that the story shouldn’t be who is kneeling or raising a fist, but what they’re doing in their communities. They have consistently tried to bring the attention back to their message. Perhaps that’s a reason almost everyone on both teams stood through the anthem.
Preseason: NFL player actions during the national anthem
Preseason: NFL player actions during the national anthem
Aug 25, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) kneels during the national anthem prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 25, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; The Chicago Bears stand during the national anthem prior to the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 24, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; The New York Jets stand for the national anthem before their game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 24, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Denver Broncos players stand during the national anthem before the game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Chicago Bears players lock arms during the National Anthem before the game against the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung (76) holds his fist up during the national anthem before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) head coach Dirk Koetter and wide receiver Mike Evans (13) stand during the national anthem before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel and players stand during the national anthem before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 9, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn (94) raises his fist during the national anthem prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 9, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Members of the Indianapolis Colts stand during the national anthem before a game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 24: The Detroit Lions stand arm in arm during the National Anthem during a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on August 24, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 11: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings stands on the sideline with teammates during the singing of the National Anthem before an NFL preseason game against the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on August 11, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 09: Jake Rodgers #68 and Alejandro Villanueva #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stand for the national anthem prior to the preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on August 9, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 11: Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos on the field during the National Anthem before a game against the Minnesota Vikings during week one of preseason at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on August 11, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. The Vikings defeated the Broncos 42-28. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Miami Dolphins receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson kneel during the national anthem as they prepare to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. The Bucs won, 26-24. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 09: The Cleveland Browns stand for the national anthem before the game against the New York Giants during their preseason game on August 9,2018 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears players stand during the national anthem before the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs in the third preseason game of the season on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
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Players want focus on the issues
Before the NFL season kicked off, the Players Coalition published a piece in the Players’ Tribune that outlined their efforts to help the problem of social injustice. They have done a tremendous amount in their communities to not just bring attention to the issues they have raised, but to bring about change.
Because critics of the players have been aggressive in not listening to the message that led to the demonstrations, the players have to keep repeating themselves. They also feel the need to continue their demonstrations to continue to bring attention to the issues they are concerned about.
Michael Bennett only player to not stand through anthem
Bennett demonstrated during the anthem for much of last season, when he was with the Seattle Seahawks. Last year, Bennett said officers in Las Vegas singled him out for “being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time” and used excessive force, after Bennett and others thought they heard gunshots in a casino.
Bennett had knelt during the anthem but stood up last year before a game against the Arizona Cardinals when the NFL was honoring the military.
“It was to signify that we are all with the military, and that we love them,” Bennett told the Tacoma News Tribune last year. “There’s been this narrative that we don’t care about the military. Today, we were honoring the military, so we wanted to be able to honor the military.
“I know a lot of people did not expect us to stand. They have this narrative about us that is not true. I have a lot of family that were military. It’s never been about the military. If there is an opportunity to support them and be grateful for what they do, and the sacrifices, we want to be able to do that.”