After a roughly 40-minute weather delay and extended Super Bowl banner reveal, the NFL season finally kicked off in Philadelphia on Thursday night for the Eagles’ opener against the Atlanta Falcons. While much of the national conversation leading up to it was focused on Nike’s new ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, there were no overt protests on the field during Boyz II Men’s performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Thursday’s game.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins is an Eagles captain and has been one of the league’s leading voices for social awareness. He protested police brutality and racial inequality throughout much of the Eagles’ Super Bowl–winning season by raising a fist during pregame performances of the national anthem. On Wednesday, he and fellow NFL players announced the Players Coalition, a group Jenkins co-founded “to refocus attention back on the systemic issues that plague the lives of millions of Americans, and remind you why we are in this fight.”
Jenkins has been determined to get his message across. During the offseason, the NFL announced a hastily constructed “anthem policy” that would require players to either stand at attention during performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” or remain in the locker room. In response, Jenkins released a statement, saying, “Everyone loses when voices get stifled.”
(The league suspended the anthem policy before preseason began.)
In June, after Donald Trump rescinded the Eagles’ invite to the White House because a number of players refused to attend, Jenkins stood before his locker and gave a silent press conference by holding up a series of signs displaying statistics and facts about social injustice.
Jenkins continued his protests through this year’s preseason. Before the Eagles’ game against the Steelers on Aug. 9, he once again raised his fist during the anthem. For an August 16 contest against the Patriots, he stayed in the tunnel with teammate De’Vante Bausby. Before that game, Jenkins wore a shirt with the words “You Aren’t Listening” written on it.
With the start of the NFL regular season and Players Coaltion launch, Jenkins is once again trying to wrestle the narrative back. “Me personally, I really want to get this conversation to move away from the anthem,” he told the Washington Post. “I think it has served its purpose.”