JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --- Prior to the start of the Jaguars' preseason home opener against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, four prominent Jacksonville players decided to stay in the locker room during the singing of the national anthem.
Pro Bowl linebacker Telvin Smith, All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, former first-round pick Leonard Fournette and fourth-year running back T.J. Yeldon were not on the field with their teammates during the anthem. The group's decision to elude the on-field presentation comes after months of controversy regarding the handling of anthem protests.
The NFL and NFLPA have hosted discussions with players and owners to find a solution for the polarizing topic. The two sides have yet to come to an agreement on a standard procedure for players who avoid standing with their teammates for the anthem.
Following the team's 24-20 loss to the Saints, Smith discussed his reasoning for skipping out on the anthem.
"I’ve got certain beliefs, but this is not going to become a distraction in Jacksonville," Smith said to reporters. "This is not going to become a distraction for this team. I’ve got beliefs. I did what I did. I don’t know if it’s going to be every week, can’t answer if it’s going to be every week, but, as a man, I’ve got to stand for something. I love my team, I’m dedicated to my teammates and that’s what we’re talking about. I did what I did, it was love."
Smith said he hopes others will understand his actions and respect what he stands for.
"I respect views, I love the military, I wore my Salute to Service cleats today," Smith said. "It’s love, and we’re just going to move forward and move forward in the preseason. It’s about that we lost a game, we’ve got to get this team prepared, this roster prepared and move forward in the season. No more questions about the beginning of the game.”
During his post-game press conference, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said he was unaware of his players' decision to skip out on the anthem. Marrone also reaffirmed his decision to stand for the flag.
"I think I made it clear that, for me, I’m always going to stand with my hand on my heart," Marrone said. "I think that the people that don’t, then they’ve got to answer to it, to the media.”
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