It's the elephant in the locker room, and we all understood that the NFL's new anthem policy wasn't going to stop players from speaking their mind. Players in the country's most powerful professional sports league weren't going to be silenced with a few fines.
Don't expect that fact to resonate with President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly attacked the NFL for its handling of the protests. After the first full day of NFL preseason action, Trump took to Twitter, delivering more criticism, and his ideal solution, for the NFL world to debate.
The President, time and again, has voiced his displeasure with the league and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Last November, he called out Goodell for having "lost control of the hemorrhaging league."
After Thursday's slate of preseason games, more NFL players resumed protesting during the playing of the national anthem.
Trump took to Twitter early Friday morning, bashed the league once again, and suggested players be suspended without pay.
It's confirmed -- 2018 is going to be another year of negative publicity for America's most popular sport.
Numerous players from different teams did not heed the NFL's warning, and continued their visual protests on the field during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Miami Dolphins wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson knelt during the pregame anthem Thursday, while Philadelphia Eagles Malcolm Jenkins and De'Vante Bausby raised fists, with defensive end Chris Long, the first white player to show support last season, putting a hand on Jenkins shoulder in support.
Jenkins, one of the NFL's most active advocates in the offseason, released a statement in May explaining his views on the NFL's decision.
"What NFL owners did today was thwart the players' constitutional rights to express themselves and use our platform to draw attention to social injustices like racial inequality in our country.
"For me, this has never been about taking a knee, raising a fist or anyone's patriotism but doing what we can to effect real change for real people."
There were players, however, who took the NFL's advice and remained hidden during the pregame introductions.
Four of the Jacksonville Jaguars' star players -- Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith, Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon -- stayed in the locker room before coming out to join the rest of the team prior to kickoff.
For players, the anthem protests aren't anti-America -- they're hoping to shine a light on changing the systemic racial inequality and police brutality we see every day around our country.
The National Football League instituted its anthem policy as an opportunity to slow down the firestorm former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick created by taking that first knee.
Fans of the league turned their heads and ran for the exits, as NFL ratings and ticket sales dipped last season.
While it's totally false that NFL players receive "most of that money," President Trump's suggestion of a suspension without pay is widely viewed as the ideal solution to take these protests elsewhere. Many fans do not want to watch professional football and have the story of the game be dominated by national anthem protests.
If the NFL cannot figure this out, more Americans will take their money somewhere else, and leave professional football behind for good.
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