NFL players' protests weren't widespread in Sunday's first games, but the demonstrations had not died out in Week 1.
Miami Dolphins wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson became the first players of the 2018 regular season to kneel in protest during the national anthem when they did so before Sunday's contest against the Tennessee Titans. Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn also raised a fist during the song.
Stills and Wilson both kneeled in the preseason and said they planned to continue to do so in the regular season. Stills said he would consider stopping if former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling in 2016 as a means to protest racial inequality and police brutality, and former 49ers safety Eric Reid were signed by an NFL team.
Both Kaepernick and Reid are pursuing separate collusion grievances against the league, with each one alleging that teams worked together to keep him off the field.
Stills, who began following Kaepernick's lead two years ago by kneeling, told The New York Times last week that criticism of players' protests were misguided.
“It shouldn’t be this complicated,” Stills told The Times. "Instead of people saying, yeah, let’s do this, let’s make change, let’s make our country a better place, it’s like, no, don’t do this then, this isn’t the right place, you don’t like the police.”
Despite the arrival of the regular season, the NFL is at a standstill on its policy for the national anthem. In May, NFL owners voted to approve a rule requiring players to either stand on the field for the anthem or remain in the locker room. But the league put that policy on hold as it entered into discussions with the NFL Players Association amid backlash.
Before Sunday's games, President Trump once again criticized the league by citing players kneeling during the anthem and the decline in broadcast television ratings for Thursday's opening game between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. That matchup, however, was pushed to a later kickoff time by severe weather, and no players kneeled during the national anthem (though Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett sat before the end of the song).