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On Sunday night, before their NFL season opener against the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots players Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty raised their fists after the playing of the national anthem—just as three Tennessee Titans players had earlier in the day. In doing so, they became the latest athletes to join San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in calling attention to racial inequality and police brutality in America.
So far, at least 15 athletes have sat, knelt, or raised fists during or right after the national anthem since Kaepernick sat before a preseason game on August 26. (Sports Illustrated‘s MMQB site reported that more than 70 NFL players had discussed what to do in light of Kaepernick’s protest leading up to opening night.) These athletes include:
Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos (NFL): When Marshall knelt before last Thursday’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers, he said he was prepared for the backlash that might ensue. And it came for his wallet: The Air Academy Federal Credit Union and CenturyLink broke off partnerships with Marshall over the act. Despite this, Marshall says he plans to continue protesting. “I’m not against the police. I’m not against the military. I’m not against America. I’m against social injustice,” Marshall told MMQB on Friday.
Jeremy Lane, Seattle Seahawks (NFL): Lane sat on the bench during the national anthem before a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders on September 1. (On Sunday, his teammates joined him, standing and linking arms together. The team’s “demonstration of unity” didn’t exactly go as far as it could have, though, as Jezebel notes.)
Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers (NFL): A week after his teammate first opened the door to demonstrations, Reid joined Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem on the San Diego Chargers’ “Salute to the Military” night. It came after the two met with free-agent long snapper and former Army Green Beret Nate Boyer, who recently wrote an open letter in the Army Times about the demonstrations.
Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs (NFL): Before Sunday’s game against San Diego, Peters stood arm in arm with teammates in a sign of solidarity with Kaepernick. He took it one step further, raising his black-gloved right hand in the air during the anthem. “I come from a majority black community from Oakland, California…so the struggle, I seen it,” he told the Associated Press after the Chiefs’ win.
Arian Foster, Miami Dolphins (NFL): Foster knelt beside three teammates along the sideline before Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks. “That’s the beautiful thing about this country,” Foster told reporters afterward. “If somebody feels it’s not good enough, they have that right. That’s all we’re doing, exercising that right.”
Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins (NFL)
Michael Thomas, Miami Dolphins (NFL)
Jelani Jenkins, Miami Dolphins (NFL)
Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans (NFL): Casey raised his fist along with two other teammates after the national anthem at Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. “A lot of times, a lot of people don’t want to address the issues, and they want us to sit back and be quiet about it,” Casey told reporters. “And I think to bring fairness and (equality) to all races and everything, I thought it was the right thing to do.”
Jason McCourty, Tennessee Titans (NFL)
Wesley Woodyard, Tennessee Titans (NFL)
Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots (NFL): The Patriots tight end and his teammate waited until the end of the anthem to raise their fists—Bennett wearing a black glove, McCourty a white one.
Devin McCourty, New England Patriots (NFL)
Megan Rapinoe, Seattle Reign (National Women’s Soccer League): On September 4, the national team standout knelt during a match against the Chicago Red Stars as a “nod to Kaepernick.” When the Reign played its next game against the Washington Spirit, Spirit team officials decided to preempt the action, playing the anthem before players trotted out to the field. (Before Sunday’s rematch against the Spirit, Rapinoe stood and linked arms with teammates.)
Michael Oppong, Doherty High School (Worcester, Massachusetts): Oppong, a high school junior, dropped to a knee during the national anthem on Friday. He claimed on Twitter afterward that his coaches and school officials had suspended him for one game. On Monday, school district superintendent Maureen Binienda told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that Oppong’s action did not violate any school rules and that he would not be punished.
Though the 49ers acknowledged Kaepernick’s right to decline to participate in the anthem, the quarterback’s actions were met with outcry from former players, pundits, and celebrities alike. The Santa Clara Police Officers Association threatened to pull officers from working 49ers games if the protests continued. (The union eventually backed off.) NFL commissioner Roger Gooddell told the Associated Press last week that he didn’t “necessarily agree” with Kaepernick’s actions; he added that while he supported players who wanted “to see change in society,” the league believed “very strongly in patriotism in the NFL.”
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” Kaepernick told NFL.com on August 27. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” He continued a week later, kneeling alongside his teammate Eric Reid before “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Following his initial demonstration, Kaepernick’s jersey sales soared; he announced recently that the proceeds will go to charity. (Both Kaepernick and the 49ers organization have pledged to each send $1 million to Bay Area charities toward “the cause of improving racial and economic inequality.”) Kaepernick’s protest is expected to continue Monday night, when the 49ers face the Los Angeles Rams.
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