‘Not going to end well’: Defiant start to NFL preseason with players on knees, fists in the air

The first full week of the NFL 2018 preseason began with a defiant start.

NFL players continued their national anthem protests by kicking off the preseason with fists in the air, some on their knees on Thursday night as the league began the 2018 preseason.

 

President Donald Trump, who has been openly critical of the league and has condemned players who disrespect the flag and the nation with their protests, denounced the renewed demonstrations in a tweet Friday.

Despite the controversy surrounding the protests, some players chose to demonstrate during  several early NFL preseason games on Thursday, Fox News reported.

Miami Dolphins wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson knelt during “The Star-Spangled Banner” behind their teammates who were standing along the sideline before their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who did not appear to be protesting. Defensive end Robert Quinn stood and raised his right fist.

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sparked the protests by kneeling during the national anthem last season to protest social injustices,  tweeted in response to Stills and Wilson’s reported protests.

Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback De’Vante Bausby raised their fists during the anthem before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Defensive end Michael Bennett walked out of the tunnel during the anthem and “spent the anthem walking toward the bench,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Chris Long, also defensive end,  reportedly “placed his arm around Jenkins’ shoulder.”

Seattle Seahawks defensive linemen Branden Jackson and Quinton Jefferson, and offensive lineman Duane Brown all left the field following team introductions and ran into the tunnel before the anthem played, returning to the sideline at its conclusion, CBS News reported.

In Jacksonville, team official said four Jaguars who stayed in the locker room during the anthem will have to explain their own actions. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Telvin Smith, and running backs Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon emerged onto the sideline after the anthem ended.

“As a man, I got certain beliefs,” Smith said, according to CBS News. “You know what I mean? This is not going to become a distraction, and Jacksonville’s not going to become a distraction for this team. I got beliefs. I did what I did. I don’t know if it’s going to be every week, can’t answer if it’s going to be every week.

“But as a man I’ve got to stand for something. I love my team, I’m dedicated to my teammates, and that’s what we’re talking about,” he added.  “I did what I did. It was love. I hope people see it and respect it. I respect views.”

One restaurant in Florida cancelled its DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket package for the upcoming season specifically because of players’ national anthem protests. Beef O’Brady’s in Brooksville decided to use the money saved to honor veterans instead with a discount on their meals.

Meanwhile, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tim Williams stood alone with his back toward the field in front of the bench while most of his teammates stood shoulder to shoulder on the sideline.

“The NFL has been engaged in constructive discussions with the NFL Players Association regarding the anthem and issues of equality and social justice that are of concern to many Americans,” the NFL said in a statement on the preseason protests, according to Fox News.

“While those discussions continue, the NFL has agreed to delay implementing or enforcing any club work rules that could result in players being disciplined for their conduct during the performance of the anthem,” the statement said. “Meanwhile, there has been no change in the NFL’s policy regarding the national anthem.”

Former National Football League star Jim Brown declared that he “will always respect the flag” of his country.

“I’ll never kneel and I will always respect the flag,” the 82-year-old Hall of Famer who has actively been engaged in social justice causes, said, according to  the Associated Press.

“I am not going to denigrate my flag and I’m going to stand for the national anthem,” the legendary running back said. “I’m fighting with all of my strength to make it a better country, but I don’t think that’s the issue. Because what is the top side? Are you not going to stand up? This is our country, man.”

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