How Many NFL Players Took a Knee?

The number of NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem has been a hot topic of discussion this season. Here’s a look at how many players actually participated in the protest.

How Many NFL Players Took a Knee?


Since 2016, when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial injustice, other NFL players have joined him in doing so. While some have criticized Kaepernick and others for their protests, many more have supported them, saying that they are using their platform to raise awareness about an important issue.

So far this season, the protests have continued, with some players taking a knee and others standing with their fists raised during the playing of the anthem. Some teams have also released statements supporting their players’ right to protest.

How many NFL players have taken a knee during the playing of the national anthem?

As of October 8, 2017, at least 90 NFL players had taken a knee during the playing of the national anthem, according to a count by The Guardian. This includes players from all 32 teams in the league.

What is the NFL Players Association?

The National Football League Players Association, or NFLPA, is a labor union that represents National Football League players. DeMaurice Smith is the current executive director of the NFLPA. He was elected in 2009, replacing the late Gene Upshaw, who had served in that role since 1983.

Smith ran unopposed for the position. He had served as a special assistant United States attorney in Washington D.C. before taking over as the NFLPA’s lead negotiator in 2008.

In 2012, the NFLPA negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL that ran through 2021. The agreement included provisions for increased player safety, such as banning certain types of hits to the head and increasing padded practices during the offseason and regular season. The 10-year deal also included provisions for increased revenue sharing between players and owners, with players getting a greater percentage of total revenue as team values increase.

In March 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic, NFLPA members voted to approve a new collective bargaining agreement that would add an additional game to the regular season (17 games) while also increasing player salaries and benefits. The agreement was ratified by NFL owners on May 28th, 2020.

As of September 2020, there are roughly 2,000 active NFL players who are represented by the NFLPA.

How many players took a knee?

During the 2016 regular season, a total of 12 NFL players kneeled or sat during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality in America. That number rose to 16 players in Week 3 of the 2017 season when San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid and linebacker Eli Harold joined Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the anthem.

What are the player’s backgrounds?

As the 2017 NFL season began, some players knelt, sat or raised their fists during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. The issue came to a head when President Donald Trump said at a rally that NFL owners should “fire” players who don’t stand for the anthem.

Here is a look at the backgrounds of some of the league’s most prominent protesters.

Colin Kaepernick, free agent quarterback
Kaepernick, who played for the San Francisco 49ers, was the first NFL player to kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest. He said he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.” He has been a free agent since 2017 and has not been signed by another team.

Eric Reid, Carolina Panthers safety
Reid was one of Kaepernick’s teammates with the 49ers and was the first player to join him in kneeling during the anthem. Reid has continued to kneel while with the Panthers and has been vocal about why he is protesting. In May 2018, Reid filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging that teams colluded to keep him unsigned because of his protests.

Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia Eagles safety
Jenkins is one of several Eagles players who have protested during the anthem over the last two seasons. In December 2017, he stopped protesting but began raising his fist during “The Star-Spangled Banner” instead. In 2018, he started meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to discuss criminal justice reform.

Doug Baldwin Jr., Seattle Seahawks wide receiver
Baldwin has knelt during rehearsals for “The Star-Spangled Banner” but stands during game time. He has also spoken out against Trump’s criticism of protesters, calling it “quite frankly disgusting.” Baldwin has also advocated for legislation that would address criminal justice reform issues such as police use of excessive force.

What is the NFLPA’s stance?

The NFL Players Association released a statement on Saturday saying that it “will continue to work with the league on all player safety issues” and that it “is proud of the history of the game and our role in protecting players.”

The union did not directly address Trump’s comments.

How has the NFL responded?

The NFL’s official policy states that players “should” stand for the anthem, but stops short of requiring it. In May, NFL owners approved a new rule that allows players to stay in the locker room during the national anthem, but subjects them to a fine if they step onto the field and kneel. The rule was met with immediate backlash from players, who said the language was vague and left them susceptible to punishment from team owners.

In response to the new rule, several high-profile players have vowed to kneel during the anthem this season. San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, who was one of the first players to kneel alongside Colin Kaepernick in 2016, said he will continue to do so this season. “The reason I’m kneeling is much bigger than football and much bigger than me,” Reid told ESPN in August. “I’m kneeling for kids who don’t have a voice.”

What is the NFLPA’s next course of action?

The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) is the union that represents National Football League players. It was founded in 1956 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The NFLPA’s executive director is DeMaurice Smith.

The NFLPA’s mission statement, as outlined in its constitution, is “to protect the rights of all professional football players, to ensure equitable treatment in compensation and working conditions and to provide benefits for players and their families.” The NFLPA also works to protect the image of players and promotes their involvement in charitable causes.

In addition to negotiating contracts with the NFL on behalf of its members, the NFLPA provides a number of services to players, including disability and pension benefits, financial planning assistance, drug testing and counseling assistance, and help with player-sponsored charitable events.

In the wake of several high-profile police shootings of African American men, some NFL players have chosen to kneel during the pre-game playing of the national anthem as a form of protest against what they see as systemic racism in America. This action has drawn criticism from some quarters, including President Donald Trump.

As of September 24, 2017, it is estimated that between 175 and 200 NFL players have chosen to kneel during the national anthem at some point during the season. It is not clear what the next course of action for the NFLPA will be in regards to this issue.


In conclusion, it is difficult to say how many NFL players actually took a knee during the 2017 season. However, based on the information that is available, it appears that between 200 and 300 players may have participated in the protest at some point during the season. This is a small minority of the approximately 1,700 players who were on active rosters at the start of the season, but it represents a significant increase from the 2016 season, when only a handful of players participated in the protest.

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