Only a hand­ful take ac­tion dur­ing an­them on NFL’s 1st Sun­day

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

LAST sea­son, the Seat­tle Sea­hawks led the league when it came to the num­ber of play­ers will­ing to make a state­ment while the na­tional an­them played.

To start this sea­son, that wave of Sea­hawks has dwin­dled to only two play­ers.

Line­men Duane Brown and Quin­ton Jef­fer­son walked off the field and waited in the tun­nel while a field-sized Amer­i­can flag was un­furled and the na­tional an­them played be­fore their sea­son opener Sun­day in Den­ver.

In a league where more than 200 play­ers once took some sort of ac­tion to protest po­lice bru­tal­ity and so­cial in­jus­tice in Amer­ica dur­ing the an­them, The As­so­ci­ated Press counted fewer than 10 across the league who did so on the NFL’s open­ing Sun­day. Only two of them — Al­bert Wil­son and Kenny Stills of the Dolphins — kneeled while the “Star-Span­gled Ban­ner” played.

None of which both­ered Brown much. He says he’s com­mit­ted to what he’s do­ing.

“I made my de­ci­sion,” he said. “That was my de­ci­sion. I wasn’t pay­ing at­ten­tion to what other teams or other play­ers are do­ing.”

The lower num­bers might re­flect a new strat­egy many play­ers are em­brac­ing to draw at­ten­tion to the is­sues Colin Kaeper­nick raised when he be­gan kneel­ing for the an­them in 2016. The then-San Fran­cisco 49ers quar­ter­back was look­ing to shine a light on is­sues im­pact­ing African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties.

Since then, a group of NFL play­ers have formed the Play­ers Coali­tion . They want to move the fo­cus away from the an­them, which has be­come a light­ning rod, in part be­cause of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s con­tin­ued crit­i­cism of play­ers who don’t stand dur­ing the an­them.

“We’re try­ing to move past the rhetoric of what’s right or what’s wrong in terms of the an­them, and re­ally fo­cus on the sys­tem­atic is­sues that are plagu­ing our com­mu­ni­ties,” said Mal­colm Jenk­ins of the Ea­gles, one of the group’s co-founders, who is no longer protest­ing dur­ing the an­them.

And yet, if Kaeper­nick is on board with all of that, it wasn’t clear Sun­day. He took to twit­ter to praise Wil­son and Stiles .

“My Brothers (Stills) and (Wil­son) con­tinue to show their un­wa­ver­ing strength by fight­ing for the op­pressed,” Kaeper­nick said in his tweet. “They have not backed down, even when at­tacked and in­tim­i­dated . ... Love is at the root of our re­sis­tance.”

Kaeper­nick’s mes­sage got through to his friends in Mi­ami.

“I know he has our back,” Stills said. “Re­ally, there has been a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween when we first started protest­ing and now. A lot of peo­ple are reach­ing out and sup­port­ing us, so I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate that. To ev­ery­body out there ... let’s keep do­ing our best to make pos­i­tive change and have these con­ver­sa­tions and make our coun­try a bet­ter place.”

Since opt­ing out of his con­tract af­ter 2016, Kaeper­nick has been un­able to land a job with an NFL team and is su­ing the league for col­lu­sion.

But his voice is still be­ing heard. Last week, Nike in­tro­duced an ad fea­tur­ing the quar­ter­back and his mes­sage: “Be­lieve in some­thing, even if it means sac­ri­fic­ing every­thing.”

Other than Stills, Wil­son and the two Sea­hawks, Dolphins de­fen­sive line­man Robert Quinn raised his fist dur­ing the an­them. Nin­ers re­ceiver Mar­quise Good­win did the same at San Fran­cisco’s game at Min­nesota. In Los An­ge­les, Charg­ers left tackle Rus­sell Okung raised his fist. And back in Den­ver, Bron­cos re­ceiver De­mary­ius Thomas and linebacker Bran­don Mar­shall re­treated to their tun­nel while the an­them played.

Mar­shall sent out a state­ment tout­ing a char­ity de­signed to help peo­ple who are on the verge of home­less­ness.

“It is time that we build so­cial cur­rency by way of em­pow­er­ing our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” Mar­shall said. “This be­gins by ad­dress­ing the most fun­da­men­tal needs — by feed­ing the minds and bod­ies.”

This came hours af­ter Trump opened the day with a tweet that took digs at the NFL, link­ing low rat­ings for Thurs­day night’s opener be­tween At­lanta and Philadel­phia (low­est for an opener since 2008) to play­ers who refuse to stand for the an­them.

Photo: AP

Mi­ami Dolphins wide re­ceiver Kenny Stills (10) and Mi­ami Dolphins wide re­ceiver Al­bert Wil­son (15) kneel dur­ing the na­tional an­them be­fore an NFL foot­ball game against the Ten­nessee Ti­tans on Sun­day in Mi­ami Gar­dens, Florida.

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