Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat down for the playing of the national anthem before Saturday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ, Stephanie Petit of People reports.
Lynch’s actions presumably renew a protest begun by San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Kaepernick declined to stand for the anthem prior to a preseason game last year between the 49ers and the Green Bay Packers and did the same for several subsequent games.
Lynch’s move came just hours after a string of violent encounters during a White Nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA. The New York Times reports that the protest became a chaos of racially charged taunting and “outright brawling,” which injured at least 14 people.
Then, after the rally had dispersed, a perpetrator drove a gray Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protesters, injuring at least 19 people and killing one, 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
The news broke before the Raiders took the field for their first preseason game of the year. As the “Star Spangled Banner” played, Lynch was photographed sitting on an orange cooler and eating a banana.
Lynch has yet to comment on his decision not to stand, but Raiders Coach Jack Del Rio said Lynch told him, “This is something I’ve done for 11 years. It’s not a form of anything other than me being myself.”
Rodger Sherman unearthed a series of tweets directed at Lynch after the 31-year-old declined to stand for the anthem before a January 2016 playoff game between the Panthers and the Seahawks.
Mike Garafolo of NFL.com posted two photographs showing Lynch standing for past anthems.
When Conan O’Brien asked Lynch about Kaepernick’s protest last September, Lynch said, “I’d rather see him take a knee than stand up, put his hands up and get murdered. My take on it is, s—, it got to start somewhere and if that was the starting point, I just hope people open up their eyes and see that it’s really a problem going on and something needs to be done for it to stop. If you really not racist, then you won’t see what [Kaepernick is] doing as a threat to America, but just addressing a problem that we have.”
Kaepernick himself said of his refusal to rise for the anthem: “I’ll continue to sit. I’m gonna continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
After discussion with former Army Green Beret and ex-NFL long-snapper Nate Boyer, Kaepernick decided to take a knee rather than sitting, People reports.
Kaepernick’s actions drew boos from Chargers fans at Qualcomm Stadium but sparked a social media movement under the hashtag #VeteransForKapernick.
Other players around the NFL, including Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane and 49ers safety Eric Reid, joined Kaepernick’s protest soon after the story broke.
Raiders Coach Jack Del Rio said he had discussed the issue with Lynch and would respect the running back’s decision.
“I said [to Lynch], ‘Just so you understand how I feel, I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem, but I’m going to respect you as a man. You do your thing, OK?’ So that’s a non-issue for me,” said Del Rio, per The Mercury News.
League rules do not require players to stand for the anthem. It remains to be seen who will join Lynch. At 31, he is a well-respected veteran around the league.
He retired in 2015, at the age of 29, after his ninth year in the league, but will come to join the Raiders this year.
Saturday’s would have been his first game back since his retirement, but Lynch did not play. The Raiders fell to the Cardinals by a score of 10-20.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons
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