The 2018 football season quietly kicked off across the U.S. Sunday without the widespread player protests over alleged police brutality against African-Americans.
Only two players both on the Miami Dolphins protested police violence by kneeling during the national anthem.
Another Dolphins player raised his fist in defiance while a member of the San Francisco 49rs did the same. Two players with the Jacksonville Jaguars chose to stay in the locker room.
A number of players knelt or held their fists in the air throughout last season, prompting President Donald Trump to demand team owners fire players who, in his words, “disrespect our flag.”
The players say the protests had nothing to do with the flag. They said they wanted to draw attention to what they say is the large number of young black males shot, beaten, arrested, or harassed by police, sometimes minor infractions or even when they hadn’t committed a crime.
In a tweet, Trump said the low television ratings of an early-season Thursday game last week was because of the protests.
NFL owners attempted to set a policy requiring players to stand for the anthem or stay off the field. But they dropped the rule after the players union objected.
Former San Francisco player Colin Kaepernick, who began the protests in 2016, is suing the NFL for alleged collusion. He claims owners have conspired to keep him off all the teams.
Kaepernick is now the subject of a new advertising campaign by sports clothing company Nike, whose slogan is “Just Do It.” The ads feature a picture of Kaepernick with a caption reading “Believe in something. Even if it costs you everything.”
Nike reports a large jump in sales since it started running the ads.