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Sitting on an orange cooler and nibbling on a half-eaten banana on Saturday night, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch became the latest pro athlete to protest racism and police brutality during the national anthem.
Lynch didn’t speak publicly about the gesture after the game, which was his first since returning from retirement. But in September, he told talk show host Conan O’Brien that he supported quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the anthem.
Lynch wasn’t in the NFL when Kaepernick knelt in protest — and sparked a movement among athletes in his sport and others.
“I’d rather see him take a knee than stand up, put his hands up and get murdered,” Lynch told O’Brien, standing and putting his hands up as if facing the police.
“My take on it is [expletive] 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.”
After Saturday’s game, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio told reporters that he didn’t think Lynch’s sitting would be a distraction, according to the Arizona Republic, and said the gesture was “a nonissue for me.”
“I talked to Marshawn to make sure we’re on the same page and he said, ‘This is something I’ve done for 11 years. It’s not a form of anything other than me being myself,’ ” Del Rio said. “I said, ‘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, okay, and we’ll do ours.’ ”
Kaepernick began the protests in the preseason last year, when he was a member of the San Francisco 49ers. The protests moved other black athletes — in the NFL and in other sports — to make their own anthem protests.
Then-president Barack Obama said Kaepernick was “exercising his constitutional right” to protest and bring attention to racial injustice, according to USA Today.
“I don’t doubt his sincerity,” Obama said. “I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. If nothing else, he’s generated more conversation about issues that have to be talked about.”
Shout out to Marshawn Lynch.. Every single Black athlete should be sitting during the national anthem based on the nazism on display today https://t.co/WFpWikAXMc
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) August 13, 2017
As The Washington Post’s Des Bieler wrote, many believe Kaepernick’s protests are the reason the quarterback, who led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, remains unsigned.
Before a preseason game on Thursday, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins raised his fist as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played, Bieler wrote.
Jenkins did the same thing for every regular season game played last season, except for one played on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
As Jenkins explained in a statement, “Last season, I raised my fist as a sign of solidarity to support people, especially people of color, who were and are still unjustly losing their lives at the hands of officers with little to no consequence.”