SEATTLE – The NFL, Jerry Jones and Donald Trump poked the bear. Big mistake.
As expected, the first night of NFL preseason games brought about more protests from players during the national anthem.
Miami Dolphins wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson took a knee. Some players raised their fist, including Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, a longtime advocate for social justice.
Others remained in the locker room during the anthem, including four players for the
Jacksonville Jaguars and three for the Seattle Seahawks.
“I can’t go out there and stand for something I really don’t believe it in,’’ said Seahawks defensive end Quinton Jefferson. “It just doesn’t make sense to me. You shouldn’t be forced to stand for what you don’t believe in. It’s a free country. That’s how I feel.”
Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who never has knelt during the anthem, wore a T-shirt during pregame workouts that read: “More Than 60% Of Prison Populations Are People Of Color”. Baldwin has worked closely with state and federal law-enforcement officials to bring about change.
Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett, who wrote a book titled, “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable”, walked on the field as the anthem was being played.
This situation isn’t going away. The sad thing is it might have gone away if not for a league proclamation, an attention-seeking team owner, and Trump, threatening the players if they continued to protest.
“I think [Trump] speaking out against it is very misguided,’’ said Seattle offensive tackle Duane Brown, one of the players who stayed in the locker room. “It’s not very empathetic toward people’s emotions and feelings who are affected directly or indirectly by injustice.”
Brown said he informed Seahawks coach Pete Carroll of his decision to stay in the locker room during the anthem. Defensive end Brandon Jackson joined Brown and Jefferson. Brown said he plans to stay off the field during the anthem all season.
“I didn’t want to kneel,’’ Brown said. “We told Pete our decision. He understands we all have different realities in this country.”
Trump doesn’t understand or care about different realities. He immediately tweeted his disgust Thursday night, basically saying again players should stand or be suspended.
Jones, the bombastic owner of the Dallas Cowboys, said his players would stand for the anthem and not be allowed to stay in the locker room. A few days after making his statement, Jones kept his cap on while the anthem was played at training camp.
It appeared this issue was dying down before the NFL announced in May that players would be fined if they didn’t stand for the anthem. Players could remain in the locker room if they so desired, and teams would set their own rules on how to handle it.
With Jones and others taking a hard line, league officials realized the May announcement was a mistake, saying they would meet with players to try to find a solution.
“I don’t know if they’ve made any progress toward a decision,’’ Brown said. “There are a lot of people who support the players and a lot of people who are very vocal against us.”
That won’t change. Some people feel the players have a constitutional right to protest how they see fit. Other people are angry and insist the players must stand for the anthem or face the consequences of a punishment.
This is a true dilemma with enormous implications for the NFL, its players and its fans.