NFL teams opened their seasons in empty stadiums, the players knelt, locked arms, raised fists in protest or stayed off the field entirely for the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the Black anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” on Sunday as the once-reluctant league brought racial injustice to the forefront on the 1st full slate of the football season.
In Atlanta, where the Falcons and Seahawks wore armbands honoring civil rights leader John Lewis, the players did not move as the opening kickoff sailed through the end zone. Then every player on both teams dropped to a knee in the spot they were standing.
After about 15 secs, they rose, trotted off the field, and the game proceeded as normal.
John Lewis (dec.) was named an honorary captain for the game. The Falcons also wore shirts with his quote: “The Vote is the most powerful, nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society.”
While fans were absent everywhere but Jacksonville because of the coronavirus chaos, the Minnesota Vikings hosted the family of convicted criminal George Floyd who died in May while resisting arrest that sparked national protests over police brutality against Blacks.
Vikings players locked arms in the end zone about 30 mins before their game against Green Bay for “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the song dubbed the Black national anthem that was played before each game Sunday as part of the NFL’s social awakening.
The Packers remained in their locker room for the 2 songs, following the lead of the Miami Dolphins, who said in a video last week that they would stay off the field for the national anthem rather than participate in “empty gestures” designed to placate the league’s fans.
Among the early games, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets also remained in their locker rooms for the pregame ceremonies.
Other teams lined up on their sideline or along the goal line and locked arms. A few players knelt during the anthem, a salute to the Y 2016 protest by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick that forced the NFL to confront racial injustice in a way that Commissioner Roger Goodell and many of the league’s most powerful owners would have preferred to avoid.
Several teams made a point of stressing Sunday that their protest was not unpatriotic.
“To be clear — we were not protesting the flag, the anthem, or the men and women who wear the uniform,” the Colts said in a statement. “The timing of this action is meant to highlight that the presence, power and oppression of racism remains inconsistent with the unity and freedoms of what it means to be an American.”
When the anthem began in Detroit, many Lions walked off the field and headed toward their locker room, some remained on the field and knelt. On the other sideline, several Bears players took a knee while about 20 of their teammates waited for the anthem to end before jogging onto the field.
The NFL had been the focus of protests in American sports ever since Mr. Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in Y 2016 to call attention to the systematic oppression of Black people in the US.
Commissioner Goodell posted a video in June conceding that the league had been late in acknowledging the Black problem. Since then, the league has taken visible steps like allowing racial justice messages in end zones and on helmets and T-shirts. Some team owners have pledged money toward social justice causes or offered their stadiums as polling places for the November election.
Have a healthy week, Keep the Faith!
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