Aug 9, 2018
ESPN News Services
Player demonstrations took place during the national anthem at several early NFL preseason games Thursday night.
Receivers Stills and Albert Wilson kneeled behind teammates lined up standing along the sideline. Defensive end Robert Quinn stood and raised his right fist, as he did during the anthem last season while with the Los Angeles Rams. There were no apparent demonstrations by the Buccaneers.
“As a black man in this world, I’ve got an obligation to raise awareness,” Quinn said. “If no one wants to live in unity, that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in.”
Stills said he didn’t coordinate with Wilson, who joined the Dolphins this season.
“It just happened that way,” Stills said. “When I’m on a knee, most of the time I’m praying, and thank God for having Albert next to me. Being a part of this protest hasn’t been easy. I thought I was going to be by myself out there. Today I had an angel with me with Albert being out there. I’m grateful he sees what’s happening, and he wants to do something about it as well.”
Stills kneeled during the anthem in the 2016 and ’17 seasons and has been vocal discussing issues of social injustice that inspired the protest movement by NFL players.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a leader of the movement, tweeted support for Stills and Wilson.
The league and the players’ union have yet to announce a policy for this season regarding demonstrations during the anthem after the league initially ordered everyone to stand on the sideline when “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played, or remain in the locker room.
“There has been no change in the NFL’s policy regarding the national anthem,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement issued Thursday night. “The anthem will continue to be played before every game, and all player and non-player personnel on the field at that time are expected to stand during the presentation of the flag and performance of the anthem. Personnel who do not wish to do so can choose to remain in the locker room.
“We remain committed to working with the players to identify solutions and to continue making progress on important social issues affecting our communities.”
In other games Thursday, four Jaguars players were not on the field when the anthem was played before their home game against New Orleans, and team officials said it would be up to the players to explain why they weren’t on the field. Linebacker Telvin Smith, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, running back Leonard Fournette and running back T.J. Yeldon joined the rest of their teammates several moments later.
Neither Smith, Fournette nor Yeldon elaborated on exactly why they chose to protest by skipping the anthem — Ramsey was not in the locker room when the media was allowed in following the team’s 24-20 loss to the Saints — but Smith did say he did it out of love.
“As a man I’ve got certain beliefs,” Smith said. “This is not going to become a distraction in Jacksonville. It’s not going to become a distraction for this team. I’ve got beliefs. I did what I did. 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. I did what I did. It was love. I hope people see it and respect it. I respect views. I love the military. Wore my Salute to Service cleats today. It’s love and we’re just going to move forward, and move forward in the preseason.”
Yeldon said he “just didn’t want to come out,” and Fournette said he didn’t want to go into details.
“Everybody has their own beliefs and certain things,” he said. “I’m not really trying to get into it. It’s just something I believe in. I’m not really trying to go into details about it. Just more focused on my teammates right now.”
At Baltimore, both teams stood, but while most of the Ravens lined up shoulder to shoulder on the sideline, second-year linebacker Tim Williams stood alone in front of the bench with his back toward the field.
And in Seattle, three Seahawks players ran into the tunnel leading to the team’s locker room before the playing of the anthem.
Defensive linemen Branden Jackson and Quinton Jefferson, and offensive lineman Duane Brown left the field following team introductions and before the start of the anthem. They returned to the sideline immediately after it concluded. All three were among a group of Seattle players who sat during the anthem last season.
Brown said he didn’t believe there had been much progress made from the demonstrations of last season.
“We all met, and everyone was clear on my decision. Everyone understands and supports it,” Brown said. “We all have different realities in this country, and they understand mine and my perspective. We’re fine. We’re all on good terms.”
Brown and Jefferson said they intend to continue the action all season.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said the team discussed the topic and decided to support individual decisions. Last season, before their Week 3 game, the Seahawks decided that whatever they did during the anthem, they were going to do as a team.
ESPN’s Michael DiRocco and The Associated Press contributed to this report.