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PHILADELPHIA – The NFL kicked off its 99th season on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field without a major display of protests during the national anthem.
Two Philadelphia Eagles players – defensive end Michael Bennett and Jay Ajayi – took seats on the bench near the end of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but that was the extent of it.
All of the Atlanta Falcons players stood at attention for the duration, as did the bulk of the Eagles, while the Philadelphia-bred R&B group Boyz II Men sang the anthem.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins did not raise a fist during the protest as he did at times last season and in the preseason, but he wore a shirt that read “Ca$h bail = poverty trap” in pregame warmups. Jenkins is among the Eagles players who have met with state representatives to push for criminal justice reform.
It’s unclear whether the lack of protest activity at the showcase opener will be an aberration or set a tone for how NFL players will handle the anthem this season, given controversy stemming from the league’s planned attempt to institute a policy requiring that players on the field stand on the field or remain in the locker room. That policy, passed by team owners in May, has essentially been tabled with an agreement that there would be player or team discipline related to anthem protests, while league officials continue to engage in discussions.
Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.