With hundreds of players on multiple teams protesting during the national anthem ahead of NFL games this season, many fans who viewed the acts as disrespectful opted to no longer watch the games despite their love of the game.
But it was noticed by some that there were conspicuously no protests during the anthem ahead of Super Bowl LII, and fans who have been paying attention all year probably weren’t surprised by that fact at all.
According to The Washington Times, no player from the Philadelphia Eagles ever took a knee, sat on the bench or stayed in the locker room in protest during the anthem all season long — just one of seven teams that can make that claim — though star defensive player and safety Malcolm Jenkins and a few others did raise a fist on a few occasions.
The other teams on which no players engaged in kneeling or sitting during the anthem — though there were occasionally raised fists, interlocked arms or pre-anthem protests — included the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets.
By contrast, there were at least 17 instances of players kneeling or reclining on the bench during the anthem for the New England Patriots throughout the 2017-18 season, which placed them roughly mid-pack when compared with player protests across the league.
Those figures come from a rather in-depth study by an outlet known as Sports Pundit, which scoured weekly media reports from the entire season to determine estimates on how players and teams participated in and responded to the protests — as well as the backlash from fans and the president — on a week-by-week basis.
As it turned out, the two biggest offender teams in terms of the player protests were NFC West division rivals San Francisco 49ers — where the protests started with ex-quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 — and the Seattle Seahawks, who had 110 and 156 respective instances of kneeling, sitting or absence during the anthem throughout the season.
As for the Eagles, they never had a single player take a knee or sit down during the anthem, though they did have 73 instances of standing anthem protests — raised fists or interlocked arms — and one team-wide protest.
Without a doubt, the single biggest week for player protests during the season was Week Three, when some 368 players across the league responded to President Donald Trump’s criticism of the protests in a rally by defiantly taking a knee or having a seat while the anthem was played.
Those protests tapered off to 40-some odd players protesting in Weeks Four and Five, with numbers dropping to the teens or low 20s per week for the duration of the season after that.
As for Jenkins, who initially raised his fist during the national anthem, he eventually stopped doing so in November as he decided the issues he wanted to bring attention to needed more than mere symbolic gestures, according to The Washington Times.
Thus, he became highly involved in forming the Players Coalition, which worked with the league to come to an agreement on using league funds to address various causes, and has engaged directly with his local police as part of the Let’s Listen Together initiative that is striving to get protesters and police to at least talk about finding solutions to their problems.
“I think that is definitely a responsibility of leaders. If we’re going to criticize officers when they do it wrong, we need to be able to acknowledge when they’re doing it the right way,” Jenkins said on an NFL Network program.
NFL ratings were down this season, in part due to the boycott of fans angered by the anthem protests, but if more teams go the route of the Eagles — refraining from protests during the anthem and engagement with their local police to address their concerns and gain a new perspective — those ratings could conceivably rebound.
Football fans really just want to watch the game and not be lectured to about social justice issues or have anti-American gestures shoved in their face, regardless of the motives behind those gestures.
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