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.
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.”
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