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Week 4: A Team-By-Team Guide To NFL Players Who Continued Anthem Protests

The fourth week of the National Football League season saw a steep drop off in the number of players engaging in protest. However, that drop off was no credit to President Donald Trump, whose comments slurring players who stand against racism and police brutality produced a backlash.

Much of the drop off is owed largely to NFL players trying to figure out how to navigate a situation, where so many fans and media twist their acts into attacks on the flag or country because they occur during the anthem. They want to make certain their message is not lost in the noise of news coverage.

It also is owed to owners, managers, and coaches stepping in to ensure players demonstrate as a team. Players conjure ways to show “unity” because management perceive any acts of individual protest as signs of division.

Another part of the drop off involves the fact that players were largely reacting to President Trump. As players return to the focus—police brutality and structural racism, there are fewer players and much less support from management for radical acts of protest that will make fans uncomfortable during the anthem.

Taking a knee started with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the 2016 preseason. He declared, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” (He was referring to police who gun down black men and face nearly zero consequences for their actions.)

NFL owners blackballed Kaepernick. Several of them, including owners who stood with players in Week 3, donated to Trump’s inaugural committee or his presidential campaign.

Below is a guide to all the individual players and teams that took action in Week 4:

Arizona Cardinals

Players Who Took a Knee: None.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: Most of the team stood together. No players reportedly linked arms.

Atlanta Falcons

Players Who Took a Knee: None reported

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Baltimore Ravens

Players Who Took A Knee: Most players took a knee and engaged in a prayer before the anthem. There was booing from attendees in the stadium. This was the first time players had engaged in some kind of expression in Baltimore.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Player Statements: “We just wanted to show to our fans that we still do stand in solidarity, but we don’t want anybody to lose the narrative of why we’re doing it. We don’t want people to think we’re disrespecting the flag or the military or anything like that.”

—Linebacker Terrell Suggs

Buffalo Bills

Players Who Took A Knee: Wide receiver Kaelin Clay, running back Taiwan Jones, fullback Mike Tolbert, cornerback Shareece Wright and defensive tackles Cedric Thornton and Jerel Worthy took a knee. Clay, Jones, Tolbert, Thornton, and Wright took a knee in Week 3. (Cornerback Leonard Johnson, who took a knee in Week 3, stood with the kneeling players.)

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Player Statements:

“I definitely think it’s been hijacked a little bit by the media, by people taking it for something different than it is. We respect, have the utmost respect for this country, the utmost respect for the soldiers, men and women who died, put their lives on the line for us. I know so many people like that, but at the end of the day, it’s about being a better person and making the world a better place. You can’t reach everybody, but at the same time, you want to be able to look yourself in the mirror, as I can, and say I’m trying to do my part to help change the community, the world I’m living in, and the world my kids are living in.”

And, “I feel like locking arms—It’s unifying, but in a sense, it’s not what we’re trying to do right now.”

—Running back Mike Tolbert



Carolina Panthers

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported, but players found ways to express themselves in other ways during the game. Quarterback Cam Newton raised a fist after scoring a touchdown. Linebacker Shaq Thompson wore cleats that said, “Stay united, not divided,” and, “#staywoke.” Running back Jonathan Stewart and linebacker Thomas Davis clasped palms in front of their faces and prayed during the anthem.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported

Player Statements:

“It was to signify black power, but more importantly, I pray every right for God to give me a pinnacle to give people hope. I did it to raise, to show black pride because I am an African-American, but more or less, I want all people just to see when I play, I want them to see the joy that I go out there and play with.”

—Quarterback Cam Newton

Chicago Bears

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: Most of the players stood with their arms linked together, as they did during Week 3.

Cincinnati Bengals

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: Most of the players stood with arms linked during the anthem.

Player Statements:

“[My father] said, ‘Colin started the movement, he started the conversation, now it’s up to everyone else to go out and put forth the actions to improve them.’

“He said it came down to everyone black and white looking in the mirror and saying, ‘What can I do to be a part of the solution – whether it’s going to boys and girls clubs and talking to kids or going into your community and trying to make a difference however you can. Racism is taught and passed down. And it can be unlearned. You just got to go out and give a continuous effort to be the best you you can be. You do unto others as you’d have done unto you.”

—Defensive End Michael Johnson

Cleveland Browns

Players Who Took A Knee: No players took a knee, but nine players held their fists up during the anthem: Cornerbacks Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Jason McCourty, linebackers Dominique Alexander and Christian Kirksey, tight end Randall Telfer, running back Isaiah Crowll, defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi, wide receiver Kenny Britt, and safety Ibraheim Campbell.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: Most of the team did not link arms.

Player Statements:

“I think the most important part is the issues, and I think that’s the part that’s been getting lost. Every time you read a headline or we do an interview, it’s about the protests,” McCourty said after the Browns’ 31-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. “Now, as players, we’ve gotten the attention to work alongside the league, to work alongside ownership, so now let’s focus on the issues which we are protesting.”

—Cornerback Jason McCourty

Dallas Cowboys

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported, but defensive lineman Damontre Moore reportedly put a fist in the air after the anthem.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Denver Broncos

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported, but linebacker Brandon Marshall, who has previously engaged in regular protest, put his fist in the air.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Detroit Lions

Players Who Took A Knee: Linebackers Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Steve Longa took a knee while linebacker Tahir Whitehead stood nearby. Reeves-Maybin was one of the players, who took a knee in Week 3.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported

Player Statements:

“Honestly, we just want to see some change — that’s all we want. We’re hurt. As people, we are hurt. We look at the leader of our country, we feel like he doesn’t give two craps about us. And I’m glad it’s being talked about. In order for change (to happen), you have to feel uncomfortable.”

—Wide Receiver Golden Tate

[*Note: Owner Martha Firestone-Ford asked players not to kneel and in exchange she would donate money to causes they care about in communities. Also, Akeem Spence stood this week, when he took a knee last week. Spence said his father lost a contracting job because he took a knee.]

Green Bay Packers

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: Most players on the team linked arms during the anthem. In fact, the team put out a statement urging fans to stand to link their arms together and stand with them during the anthem.

Houston Texans

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Indianapolis Colts

There were no players who took a knee. The team put out a statement to correct “misperceptions” people had about players who protested during Week 3:

Recently, there have been several misperceptions regarding a personal choice made by members of our team to bring awareness to prevailing issues facing our nation. To be clear – those of us who kneeled did not intend to disrespect our flag, our National Anthem or those who serve our country. We all have family and friends who are servicemen and women. We appreciate and respect the incredible sacrifices they make.

But as NFL players, we have a platform. And as Americans, we have a responsibility to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Our intention was to raise awareness and to continue critical conversations about real eqaulity, the injustices against black and brown people, police brutality, respect, unity, and equal opportunity. Our players are hurting, our people are hurting, out neighborhoods are hurting, and kneeling was a direct response to that hurt.

But what makes football so special is the way it brings people together – fans, players, coaches, all of us. We represent different races, backgrounds and beliefs, but we come together for a common goal. That togetherness seen on the field and in the stands when we play should resonate even when we leave the stadium.

In that same spirit, as unified Americans, we will respect all forms of peaceful protests, as they are protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Some of our players may kneel, while others may stand. But this is just the beginning. There is much work to do, and it will take all of us.

Kneeling for JUSTICE. Standing for UNITY. Fighting for EQUALITY. Showing RESPECT.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The team knelt in prayer before the anthem and stood during the anthem. No players reportedly engaged in individual acts of expression. They put out the following statement:

The United States flag and our national anthem are both strong sources of inspiration and unity. Our respect for both is sincere. Given recent events and remarks, however, we felt it was time last weekend to shine a light on the serious issues of inequality and social injustice that exist in our country.

We want to make it clear that we never intended in any way to show disrespect towards the U.S. military community, first responders, our flag, or our national anthem. We love and respect everyone who serves and has made sacrifices for the United States in the past, today and the future. That is especially true in our hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.

We are a very diverse group, much like our country as a whole. So we may not see eye to eye on everything, but we will be a team undivided. We will play to win and represent Jacksonville with honor, and we are committed to furthering the conversation and taking action to effect positive change.

In that spirit, the Jacksonville Jaguars – every one of us – prior to the national anthem on Sunday will kneel to pray for change, progress and equality for everyone who calls the United States their home. We hope others will pray along with us. We are all in this together.

The Jacksonville Jaguars will then stand together, as a team, tomorrow and going forward, to honor our flag and our national anthem.

Kansas City Chiefs

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported

Players Who Sat: Cornerback Marcus Peters sat during the anthem, as he did in Week 3. Linebacker Ukeme Eligwe joined him in sitting.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Los Angeles Chargers

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: Several players linked arms.

[*Note: Groups like the Courage Campaign, Democracy For America, and “Black Lives Matter” protesters held a demonstration right before the game. They sought to refocus attention on what started the kneeling during the anthem—police violence.]

Los Angeles Rams

Players Who Took A Knee: It was the first game for the Rams since Trump’s remarks, but no player took a knee. Outside linebacker Robert Quinn put his fist in the air during the anthem.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Miami Dolphins

Players Who Took A Knee: Wide receiver Kenny Stills, tight end Julius Thomas, and defensive back Michael Thomas took a knee. All three took a knee in Week 3.

Player Statements: “I was never compelled to kneel before. Before, I always felt that I had a different role. I had something else that I should to really advance my cause. After I heard the President’s comments, and just the difference in characterization he had for my fellow peers taking a silent protest, in comparison to the way he characterized people that were preaching hate—It really struck me.”

“To hear all the people and all the cheering and all the people that agreed with the president after using that type of language, it really helped me understand there’s big issues going on in our country, and one of it is the voices of the people that don’t have equality are not being heard. And it almost seemed to me that they’re almost being intimidated not to speak and not stand up for what they believe in.”

—Tight end Julius Thomas on CNN

Minnesota Vikings

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported.

Players Who Sat: None reported

Players Who Locked Arms: Most of the players linked arms while standing during the anthem.

New England Patriots

Players Who Took A Knee: None took a knee. Attendees in the stadium cheered after booing players who took a knee last week.

Players Who Sat: None reported

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

[*Note: Days before the game, a few fans gathered to hold a jersey burning party to protest the 20 Patriots players, who engaged in freedom of expression and took a knee against injustice and for equality.]

New Orleans Saints

Players Who Took A Knee: All the players took a knee, but before the national anthem.

New York Giants

Players Who Took A Knee: Defensive end Olivier Vernon took a knee, like he did during Week 3. Safety Landon Collins and defensive tackle Damon Harrison, who took a knee in Week 3, stood by Vernon.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Player Statements:

“Same as last week: Nothing changed. Nothing changed as far as why I was taking a knee.”

Olivier Vernon

New York Jets

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: Most of the players locked arms, as they did during Week 3.

Oakland Raiders

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported.

Players Who Sat: Running back Marshawn Lynch. In fact, Lynch arrived to the game wearing an “Everybody vs. Trump” shirt, and when he sat, Raiders personnel surrounded him so the media could not take photos of him. Their effort to obstruct media only drew more attention to his protest.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Philadelphia Eagles

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported, but safety Malcolm Jenkins held his right fist in the air again while defensive end Chris Long put his hand on his teammate’s shoulder in a show of solidarity.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Player Statements:

“A year ago, I was one of several NFL players who began demonstrating in the hope of sparking conversation about injustice in our country. That effort has now grown to include players and teams across the league, as we proclaim together that we believe in equality and justice for everyone. We understand that these conversations are often uncomfortable, but they are important for progress. Our demonstrations have never been about the symbols and traditions we use to honor America. They have been about us as citizens making sure we hold America to the ideals and promises that make this country great. We believe our country can do better — can be better.”

—Safety Malcolm Jenkins, who wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post

Pittsburgh Steelers

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

San Francisco 49ers

It was the first opportunity for the team to protest because they played in the Thursday Night Football game on September 21, before Trump made his remarks. Thirty players took a knee in a row. Behind them, another row of players lined up and some put their hands on the shoulders of players kneeling. General manager John Lynch and owner Jed York stood behind players.

The team issued a statement that focused on unity and the history of 49ers players protesting oppression and social injustices:

At its purest level, football is a unifier of people from all walks of life, different socio-economic backgrounds, every corner of this country and around the world. As players, coaches, ownership and staff, we are privileged to work in an environment that is a tremendous example of how people can come together for a common goal. We not only put our differences aside, but we also use them to achieve that common goal by challenging each other to be better — both in our professional and personal lives.

For more than a year, members of our team have protested the oppression and social injustices still present in our society. While some may not have taken a knee or raised a fist, we have all shared the desire to influence positive change. Today, our team chose to publicly display our unity in a new way and, in turn, urge others do the same. Our demonstration is simply a representation of how we hope our country can also come together by putting differences aside and solving its problems.

As the majority of us have done throughout our careers, we use our platform as members of a NFL team, and our right to freedom of expression, to speak up for those whose voice is not heard. It is important that we continue to emphasize that despite our different backgrounds and beliefs, we still love each other and are truly a brotherhood. Our gesture today was an intentional effort to demonstrate that. Make no mistake, we love this great country and have tremendous respect for our military and veterans who have sacrificed so much for our right to express ourselves freely. We passionately want what is best for this country and all its citizens.

On behalf of the San Francisco 49ers organization, we urge our fellow citizens to embrace your differences, find strength in them, and come together for the good of all.

Seattle Seahawks

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported.

Players Who Sat: Defensive ends Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Frank Clark, defensive tackles Nazair Jones, Jarran Reed, Sheldon Richardson, and Garrison Smith, and linebackers Marcus Smith and Michael Wilhoite sat on a bench during the anthem.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Player Statements:

“[Trump’s comments] didn’t impact by views, what impacted by views was the mass incarceration of African-Americans. Thirty-five percent of the people in jail are African-American. Police brutality, that’s what influences me. I think Colin Kaepernick influenced me to keep pushing forward.

And those are the issues that we’re talking about. We’re not talking about the flag. We’re not talking about the military. Even after wars, after World War II, African-American men came back to feel subhuman when they came back to society. They didn’t have rights. They had to face Jim Crow, you know, and still, they couldn’t vote after they did Vietnam.

So, it’s not about the flag. It’s still about the rights that people want, the equality that we see is fit for every single human. I don’t feel like I should have a different conversation with my kids than a white American should have with their kids. I should be able to feel safe if my daughter or son goes out in the streets and feel like they’re going to come home.

And when I get pulled over by the police, I shouldn’t feel like I’m going to die. I should feel that I’m interacting with law enforcement, and they respect me as human being.”

—Defensive End Michael Bennett during a CNN town hall

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

[*Note: Some Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans organized a “Stand Up For America!” to protest players on the team, who engage in freedom of expression and protest racism or police brutality during the national anthem. The Tampa Bay Times spoke to a dozen, none of which were season ticket holder or fans who regularly attend games.]

Tennessee Titans

Players Who Took A Knee: No players took a knee, but there were players who expressed themselves. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and linebacker Wesley Woodyard raised their fists after the anthem. They have done this before multiple games. Defensive lineman DaQuan Jones and linebacker Brian Orakpo joined them in throwing a salute for black pride.

Rishard Matthews previously stated he would kneel until President Trump apologized for his remarks. He remained in the tunnel of the stadium until after the anthem played.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

Washington Redskins

Players Who Took A Knee: None reported.

Players Who Sat: None reported.

Players Who Locked Arms: None reported.

***

For a guide to Week 3, go here.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."