Last season, the Seattle Seahawks led the league when it came to the number of players willing to make a statement while the national anthem played. To start this season, that wave of Seahawks has dwindled to only two players. Linemen Duane Brown and Quinton Jefferson walked off the field and waited in the tunnel while a field-sized American flag was unfurled and the national anthem played before their season opener Sunday in Denver. In a league where more than 200 players once took some sort of action to protest police brutality and social injustice in America during the anthem, the AP counted fewer than 10 across the league who did so on the NFL's opening Sunday. Only two of them—Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills of the Dolphins—took a knee while the anthem played.
The lower numbers might reflect a new strategy many players are embracing to draw attention to the issues Colin Kaepernick raised when he began kneeling for the anthem in 2016. The then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback was looking to shine a light on issues impacting African American communities. Since then, a group of NFL players have formed the Players Coalition. They want to move the focus away from the anthem, which has become a lightning rod, in part because of President Trump's continued criticism of players who don't stand during the anthem. Kaepernick, however, praised Wilson and Stiles in a tweet. "They have not backed down, even when attacked and intimidated," he said.
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