In the wake of all the controversy surrounding the deal Nike made with Colin Kaepernick as the face of their new ad, the NFL’s season opener was void of any protests during the playing of the National Anthem.
The first game of the NFL season officially kicked off on Thursday night and the protests that have dogged the league were noticeably absent.
No players from the Philadelphia Eagles or the Atlanta Falcons were seen kneeling during The Star-Spangled Banner at Lincoln Financial Field in Pennsylvania.
Defensive end Michael Bennett sat on the bench during a preseason game last month and did the same at the season opener on Thursday. But safety Malcom Jenkins, who previously raised his fist in protest weeks ago, did not appear to repeat the gesture at the opening game.
The revamped “Just Do It” ad from Nike with Kaepernick declares: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Kaepernick initiated the controversial protests in September 2016, calling attention to social injustices and racial inequality. Since then, it has sparked a national discussion about patriotism, and drew intense criticism from President Trump. He condemned those who kneeled as disrespectful to America.
In June, the president dis-invited the Super Bowl champion Eagles from visiting the White House. Trump said the team didn’t agree with his belief that NFL players should stand during the anthem.
The NFL changed its national anthem protocol in May, prohibiting any sort of demonstrations for the 2018 season. It did allow players to remain in the locker room during the anthem if they chose to. Individual teams would be responsible for disciplining any protesters.
The players’ union filed a grievance about the policy change, and in July, the new policy was put on hold while the NFL and NFL Players Association work on a joint resolution.