Reports of the death of the national anthem kneelers remain greatly exaggerated.
More like Freddy or Jason than Mark Twain, they come alive when you most believe them dead. After nobody sat or knelt during the early slate of games, more than a dozen players did so during the afternoon contests. A sigh of relief became a sigh of disgust.
Sports Illustrated counted 19 players refusing to rise for the anthem on Sunday. This included seven kneelers, eight sitters, and four players staying in the tunnel or locker room during the “Star Spangled Banner.” Add Marshawn Lynch, who refused to rise on Thursday before getting tossed out of the game for bumping a referee, to this list. And the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, two teams employing numerous sideline protestors, play on Monday night, so that number may rise beyond 20.
San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks players constitute most of those showing disrespect for the flag and all of those kneeling and sitting Sunday. One player for the Tennessee Titans, and three for the Miami Dolphins, remained purposely out of view during the national anthem.
Leave aside the falling Nielsen ratings and the empty seats for now. The fact that the statistic fans flock to involves what occurred immediately before the game, and not Tom Brady going 21-for-29 or Ezekiel Elliott rushing for 147 yards, demonstrates the trouble in which the NFL finds itself. The games play backup to the games before them.
“There is no question the league is suffering negative effects from these protests,” explained Jerry Jones, alone, apparently, among owners in pushing back on the protesting players. A cynic might label him Captain Obvious. But, remember, for the longest time the NFL blamed natural disasters and the presidential election and baseball and anything else they could muster for the league’s popularity crash. And now that they have identified the problem, they promptly set about to do nothing to fix it. One feels Jones’s frustration. The league’s owners appear in a fog thicker than the one descending upon Gillette Stadium Sunday night.
The NFL started the week with a nailbiter of a contest between hated divisional rivals that witnessed the Oakland Raiders defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 31-30 with no ticks left on the clock and finished Sunday evening with a rematch of arguably the greatest Super Bowl of all-time. Yet, on Monday we talk about whether guys stood or kneeled or sat or hid for the national anthem.