- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2018

If you’re planning to watch the Super Bowl but you can’t stand the NFL take-a-knee protests, you may want to root for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Not a single Eagles player sat or knelt during the national anthem, one of just seven teams with perfect non-kneeling records, in a season that saw 684 such incidents, according to a study released Thursday by Sports Pundit.

The other Super Bowl LII team, the New England Patriots, landed in the middle of the pack with 17 incidents of anthem sitting or kneeling, wedged between the Buffalo Bills with 16 and the Cleveland Browns with 20.

Still, neither of the Super Bowl teams was in any danger of catching the leader: the Seattle Seahawks, which easily scored the most episodes of sitting or kneeling with 156, followed by the San Francisco 49ers with 110.

Both of those teams play in the NFC West. Oddly enough, the division’s other two teams — the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams — had zero take-a-knee protests.

The remaining teams with no players sitting out during the anthem were the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets.

QUIZ: The ultimate NFL Super Bowl trivia challenge - Are you ready for some football?

The Sports Pundit survey, using data from ESPN and other media outlets, found that the protests peaked with 368 in Week 3, days after President Trump suggested at a Sept. 22 Alabama rally that owners should fire players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.

The Eagles and Patriots both engaged in team protests that week, but neither involved sitting or kneeling during the anthem. The Eagles locked arms or raised fists, while the Patriots participated in a pre-anthem protest.

Even though the Eagles had no kneelers, Philly safety Malcolm Jenkins was among the league’s most visible players working on protest-related issues with team owners.

He co-founded the Players Coalition, which reportedly brokered an $89 million agreement in principle with the NFL to fund related causes, and was featured on NFL Network last week discussing issues with a local police chief as part of the NFL’s newly launched Let’s Listen Together initiative.

“I think that is definitely a responsibility of leaders. If we’re going to criticize officers when they do it wrong, we need to be able to acknowledge when they’re doing it the right way,” Mr. Jenkins said during the show.

After initially raising a fist during the anthem, Mr. Jenkins told reporters in November that he would no longer do so.

SEE ALSO: Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long, Torrey Smith of Eagles to skip Trump White House visit

The NFL saw its ratings decline by 9.7 percent in 2017 from the previous season, which has been attributed to factors ranging from bad weather to poor officiating to fan outrage over the protests.

“[W]hether you’re with friends or family the next time you tune in for kickoff, feel free to argue your view of these athletes’ actions,” said the Sports Pundit analysis. “But once the bitter debate is done, there’s a tried-and-true method for healing available: rooting for your team together.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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