In Week 4, divisional showdowns like Raiders-Broncos, Steelers-Ravens, and Titans-Texans will provide plenty of excitement on the field — but the thing that gets the most attention Sunday may be what takes place before any of these games start.
Week 3 featured more protests during the national anthem than the league has ever seen. Players, coaches, and owners united after President Donald Trump took aim at the athletes exercising their right to free speech, calling them “sons of bitches” and imploring owners to fire them. Together, they took knees, linked arms, and even avoided the anthem altogether by remaining in their locker room before the game.
Talk about the demonstrations dominated the news cycle, making the outcome of last Sunday’s games a supplementary piece of the puzzle. After last week’s games, players were given the opportunity to express what the day’s actions meant to them — and they made their displeasure clear.
Stars like Mike Evans, Adrian Peterson, Julius Peppers, and Devin McCourty all spoke out against President Trump’s remarks, refusing to let his divisive comments cause a rift in their locker rooms.
While some have misrepresented the protests as a vehicle for disrespecting the American flag and the military that fights to defend it, both teams and players have insisted that’s not the case. Instead, the purpose of the protests in the first place, when Colin Kaepernick sat and then kneeled during the national anthem last year, was to rally against racial injustice and police brutality toward people of color.
President Trump went after the NFL again Thursday, targeting everything from the league’s attendance to players wearing pink to support breast cancer awareness. Most of his talking points were factually inaccurate.
It seems likely that the NFL’s protests will continue for the foreseeable future, although some teams have already said they will stand during the anthem and others plan to link arms.
Here’s what we know so far about what’s happening around the league in Week 4. We’ll have coverage of all this week’s demonstrations as they happen.
Before Thursday night’s game, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears stood and linked arms during the anthem. The Packers had invited fans to join them, but only some did.
Three Dolphins players kneel
Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas took a knee prior to the Saints-Dolphins game in London, the first game of the day on Sunday.
Julius Thomas, Kenny Stills and Michael Thomas kneel. pic.twitter.com/7ZvTOBFFSn— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) October 1, 2017
The Saints kneeled before the national anthem
No Saints players kneeled during the anthem itself.
The Steelers will stand together during the national anthem
Last week, the Steelers decided as a team not to take the field during the national anthem. However, Alejandro Villanueva ended up standing on the field by himself, which he later apologized for.
The Steelers were all on the field Sunday during the anthem, as they planned earlier in the week.
“I promise you one thing, this week we’ll all be standing out there for the national anthem, trust me,” Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said Wednesday.
The Broncos speak out on inequality but will stand as a team during the anthem
In Week 3, 32 Broncos players kneeled during the anthem. This week, they decided they will all stand together.
A message from our players: pic.twitter.com/eQs3z7OcqV— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) September 28, 2017
The Seahawks created an equality and justice fund
The Seahawks remained in the locker room during the national anthem last week. They have not yet decided what they will do this week when they host the Colts on Sunday Night Football.
“I think moving forward, it’s about making a difference,” head coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday.
The team took a step toward doing that when they announced they had formed the Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund:
“I think that was really important, because for the longest time now, we’ve been trying to figure out, what can we do as a team to impact change?” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said.
Entire Jaguars team will kneel in prayer before anthem
In Week 3, many players for the Jaguars — including Calais Campbell and Jalen Ramsey — kneeled, while the rest of the team linked arms, with owner Shad Khan, during the anthem.
The team announced Saturday it will collectively kneel prior to the national anthem during a road game against the New York Jets to “pray for change, progress and equality.” Then the Jaguars will stand for the anthem.
A message from the players: pic.twitter.com/2jhU8TGzcr— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) September 30, 2017
The Browns previously kneeled in prayer during the anthem in preseason and clarified that it wasn’t a protest.
Ravens kneel in prayer before anthem and still get booed
The Ravens stood for the national anthem, but after kneeling in prayer prior to the performance. That still earned the team boos from the crowd in Baltimore.
A week ago, several Ravens players — including Terrell Suggs and former linebacker Ray Lewis — kneeled during the performance of the national anthem in London.
Rams DE Robert Quinn raised a fist during the anthem
Los Angeles played a Thursday Night Football game in Week 3, a day prior to the comments made by Trump that emboldened many to protest a week ago. In the first game since the comments, Rams players linked arms on the sideline during the anthem.
Defensive end Robert Quinn raised a fist.
Quinn has previously raised a fist during the playing of the national anthem.
Bills players kneel during anthem
A total of six players for Buffalo kneeled during the playing of the anthem.
That’s a significant amount, but appears to be smaller than the group that kneeled prior to a Week 3 game against the Broncos. The six kneeling in Week 4 did not include LeSean McCoy who warmed up during the national anthem a week ago.
Cam Newton raises a fist after touchdown
Newton’s 7-yard touchdown run was follow by him raising a closed fist:
After the game, he told reporters the following:
Cam Newton says raised fist was to signify black power and pride.— Joe Person (@josephperson) October 1, 2017
Marcus Peters stays on the bench during the anthem
Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters has been a supporter of Kaepernick’s movement from day one, so it’s no surprise that he continued to protest during the national anthem in Week 4 by taking a seat on the bench.
NFL's message of ‘unity’ has diluted Colin Kaepernick's reasons for protest
Half of the 49ers team kneeled
GM John Lynch and CEO Jed York were on the field for the 49ers demonstration, with members of the team that chose to stand putting their hands on the shoulders of their kneeling teammates.
Olivier Vernon was the only member of the Giants to kneel in Week 4
#Giants linked arms during the anthem and Olivier Vernon knelt for the second straight week. Only Giant to kneel. Several held first in air— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) October 1, 2017
Brandon Marshall stood, but raised his fist
The Broncos announced before the game that they would stand during the anthem in Week 4, but Brandon Marshall, who has been a vocal supporter of protests, stood with one fist raised during the performance.
Marshawn Lynch sat during the anthem
The Colts release strong statement, wear shirts during pregame
A statement from our players: pic.twitter.com/B844SSbW73— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 1, 2017
Essentially it will allow players to make whatever decision they feel is right for them, with the support of the organization behind them.
In warmups, players were wearing these T-shirts:
During the anthem, the Colts stood, linking arms:
Alejandro Villanueva doesn’t want to be used to push an agenda
After the Steelers’ game against the Rams, former Army Ranger Villanueva said he didn’t want to be used for political purposes:
Al Villanueva says, "I'm tired of the cameras in my face all the time...It's completely unacceptable to use me as a tool to push an agenda."— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) October 1, 2017
"To wake up in the morning and see the face of Coach (Mike) Tomlin and the face of a soldier pitted against each other is completely unacceptable from the media,” Villanueva said.
Michael Bennett, a few other Seahawks sit during anthem
Michael Bennett, along with the other seven other defensive linemen and linebacker Michael Wilhoute, sat during the national anthem:
Essentially the entire defensive line plus Michael Wilhoite sat for anthem. Britt,Aboushi stood next to them in support.— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) October 2, 2017