Nobody took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before Thursday night’s official NFL opener in Philadelphia where the Eagles, last year’s champions, defeated the Atlanta Falcons.
Fans in the stands of Lincoln Financial Field held their breath in anticipation as pregame festivities kicked off, expecting to see players continue the anthem protests that sparked widespread controversy a year ago, The New York Times reported.
It came as a relief when every player with the exception to Eagles defensive lineman Michael Bennett, stood for the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner prior to kick off.
Even Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who participated in preseason game protests, returned to the sideline, Fox News reported.
It was just Bennett, who has been vocal of his support to the protests, who appeared to take a seat during the anthem, 247 Sports reported.
The Times said Bennett paced several yards behind the lineup of his teammates and eventually took a seat on the bench near the end of the singing of the anthem by Boyz II Men.
Bennett later explained that it was important as a movement to “continue to change and adapt to the context of the situation,” according to the Times. “But we’re trying to move past the rhetoric of what’s right or what’s wrong and focus on what has to change.”
He didn’t say whether he would participate in future protests in the upcoming season.
The season opener came just days after Nike revealed its controversial “Just Do It” campaign which featured former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as one of the faces of the ad.
Nike aired an accompanying commercial that featured Kaepernick during the broadcast of Thursday’s game on NBC.
The commercial, which was released on Twitter prior to being broadcast, concludes with Kaepernick saying: “So don't ask if your dreams are crazy; ask if they're crazy enough.”
Kaepernick had signed with Nike in 2011, but he has been kept in the background after sparking the national anthem protests.
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