The N.F.L.’s 2018 began in earnest on Thursday with the first full slate of preseason games, and the question that has dogged the league all summer — will players continue social justice protests during the playing of the national anthem — was answered loud and clear.
Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the most outspoken players in recent years, was joined by his teammate, De’Vante Bausby, in raising a fist while the anthem was played. As had been customary in the past, Chris Long, a veteran defensive end, stood next to Jenkins with a hand on the defensive back’s shoulder.
Elsewhere, Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson of the Miami Dolphins knelt during the anthem before their team’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while their teammate, Robert Quinn, raised his fist. ESPN also reported that four members of the Jacksonville Jaguars (Telvin Smith, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon) waited in the tunnel until after the anthem had concluded before their team’s game against the New Orleans Saints, though it has yet to be confirmed that their absence was officially a protest.
Stills and Wilson, the only players who have been confirmed to have knelt during the anthem on Thursday, received praise on social media from Colin Kaepernick, the inactive player whose protests as a member of the San Francisco 49ers started this movement.
The raised fist was a return to form for Jenkins, who had stopped this particular demonstration midway through last season after he and a coalition of players secured increased funding for social issues from the league. On Thursday, Jenkins and some of his teammates on the defending champion Eagles took the field for warm-ups wearing T-shirts highlighting various statistics about racial disparities in prisons.
That Jenkins went back to demonstrating was not surprising after his strong reaction to recent changes in the league policy regarding behavior during the anthem.
“Quite frankly, guys in our league don’t like being told what to do, what they can and can’t do,” Jenkins told Philly.com. “We don’t have this type of policies for the other causes we support, whether it be our ‘Salute to Service,’ or breast cancer awareness, or anything else. It’s just when you start talking about black folks, quite frankly. It’s disheartening, but we’ll continue to be creative.”
The protests came less than three months after the league, without consulting the players’ union, updated its rules to obligate players to stand on the field during…