Oakland, Calif. — There have been more than a dozen NFL preseason games and national anthem protests have been minimal.
Prior to their exhibition opener against the Oakland Raiders, the entire Detroit Lions roster and coaching staff locked arms, a sign of unity the team began last season in response to president Donald Trump's increasingly aggressive rhetoric against protestors.
Around the league, Miami Dolphins wide receivers Kenny Still and Albert Wilson took a knee, while teammate Robert Quinn raised a fist. Additionally, fewer than 10 players with Jacksonville and Seattle opted to stay in the locker room during the anthem.
The protesters make up less than one-half of one percent of the more than 2,500 players on those teams’ rosters.
That didn’t stop president Trump from launching into an oft-repeated Twitter tirade on the topic early Friday morning.
“The NFL players are at it again — taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem,” Trump wrote in a two-part tweet. “Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love.
“Be happy, be cool!,” Trump continued. “A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!”
The NFL spent the offseason debating its anthem policy. The league attempted to institute a requirement for players and team personnel to stand, but revoked the edict after complaints from the NFLPA.
"There has been no change in the NFL's policy regarding the national anthem," league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement issued Thursday night. "The anthem will continue to be played before every game, and all player and non-player personnel on the field at that time are expected to stand during the presentation of the flag and performance of the anthem. Personnel who do not wish to do so can choose to remain in the locker room.
"We remain committed to working with the players to identify solutions and to continue making progress on important social issues affecting our communities."
Lions coach Matt Patricia has continued to decline comment on whether the Lions have an anthem policy, saying those conversations and decisions will be handled internally.