With the NFL enacting, then reconsidering rules that require players to stand at attention during the national anthem, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins resumed the raised-fist protest he had ended during the 2017 season. Jenkins stopped protesting after the league promised $89 million toward social justice initiatives. But the rule change passed at the March owners’ meeting reopened what had seemed to be a healing wound.
Cornerback De’Vante Bausby joined Jenkins Thursday evening, and defensive end Chris Long placed his arm around Jenkins’ shoulder, as Long did last season. Defensive end Michael Bennett, who kneeled during the anthem when he played in Seattle, walked out of the tunnel late, with security director Dom DiSandro, then spent the rest of the anthem trudging toward the bench.
“I think it was just a culmination of kind of how the offseason went,” Jenkins said after the Steelers’ 31-14 victory. “Where we are now, I think it’s just important that we keep this conversation going, that we don’t let it get stagnant. As we understand it, everybody’s kind of waiting to see what the league is going to do. Better that we not stop what we’ve been standing up for” as negotiations continue. “That’s just my personal decision, to make sure that we keep these things at the forefront.”
Jenkins said he didn’t know Bausby was going to join him. Turns out, Bausby said, he raised his fist all last season, but he was on the practice squad, not in uniform and not standing with the uniformed players.
“I try not to discuss it with too many guys, because I don’t want guys to feel pressured into doing anything,” Jenkins said. “It’s a very personal decision.”
“Every home game last year I participated in it,” Bausby said. “You guys know what’s going on. It’s understood, it doesn’t need to be explained … I don’t call it a protest, I just call it bringing attention to what’s going on. I don’t really like the word ‘protest’ because when people hear the word ‘protest’ they think of it in a negative way. I’m just raising awareness.”
Bennett said he had no comment on his slow walk to the bench. He said he would speak with reporters Friday, but there is no scheduled media access to players on Friday.