NFL Players Kneel, Stay in Locker Rooms, Share Social Justice Messages in Week 1

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2020

FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020 file photo, Kansas City Chiefs players, including quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) stand with teammates for a presentation on social justice before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, in Kansas City, Mo. The NFL's new stance encouraging players to take a stand against racial injustice got its first test as some fans of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs booed during a moment of silence to promote the cause, touching off a fresh debate on how players should use their voice. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Week 1 of the NFL season featured several displays of protest against racial injustice from players around the league. 

The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Football Team stood together during the playing of "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

Philadelphia Eagles @Eagles

It takes all of us. https://t.co/F24AelYOnV

Other teams stood at the goal line during the song, which is referred to as the Black national anthem.

Doug Kyed @DougKyed

The Patriots are standing as a team on the goal line during the playing of the Black national anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." https://t.co/w5NS0pRc1P

Dugar, Michael-Shawn @MikeDugar

Both seahawks and falcons standing with their arms locked during Lift Every Voice and Sing https://t.co/C80gatH8UZ

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

As expected, the #Packers have left the field prior to the anthems. The #Vikings are lined up along the goal line. https://t.co/Zdrs8ACaTc

David Newton @DNewtonespn

Panthers players and coaches stood on the goal line while a video with the song ‘'Lift Every Voice And Sing'' played on the big screen about 25 minutes before kickoff. The Raiders joined them on the visitor's sideline. https://t.co/tLftSerPAk https://t.co/KSUWExQODF

Baltimore Ravens @Ravens

💜 https://t.co/KbD5ACYLCU

Larry Lage @LarryLage

#Bears and #Lions arm and arm on opposite ends of the field after a moment of silence and during video promoting social justice ⁦@AP_NFL⁩ ... 30 minutes before kick off https://t.co/MCmmNMap4q

Ravens players Marlon Humphrey and Matthew Judon kneeled during the national anthem, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.

Aditi Kinkhabwala @AKinkhabwala

The #Ravens were out for Lift Every Voice and Sing, the #Browns stayed in their locker room. That’s Marlon Humphrey at the front of the line. https://t.co/jTCNJA7tcP

The Miami Dolphins remained inside the locker room during the Star-Spangled Banner after what they called "fluff and empty gestures" by the NFL, per Mac Cerullo of CNHI Boston.

The Jacksonville Jaguars also stayed in the locker room while releasing a statement on the matter:

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Jaguars players release a statement saying they’re going to remain in the locker room for both anthems to raise awareness of racial injustice https://t.co/RWDw767Mqp

The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills went into the locker room during the playing of the national anthem, per Brian Costello of the New York Post

Other teams used various ways to send messages in support of racial justice:

John Keim @john_keim

After the song Washington went to its sideline and took a knee for a minute as victims of violence scrolled on the video board. https://t.co/RgeUESbQQU

Minnesota Vikings @Vikings

The Gjallarhorn will not be sounded today in honor of George Floyd and others who no longer have a voice due to racism. https://t.co/tq0niGvU0i

New England Patriots @Patriots

Injustice against one of us is injustice against all of us. https://t.co/KKtXnpRGrm

Justin Felder @Justin_FOX5

The #Seahawks kicked off the game, then all players on the field for both teams took a knee, allowing the ball to go through the end zone. https://t.co/fSlI65Ytqw

These events follow the "moment of unity" during Thursday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans:


A moment of silence dedicated to the ongoing fight for equality in our country. #ItTakesAllOfUs https://t.co/srC0SlnWdh

The teams chose not to kneel during the anthem but instead came together at midfield while displaying these messages on the scoreboard:

  • We Support Equality
  • We Must End Racism
  • We Believe in Justice for All
  • We Must End Police Brutality
  • We Choose Unconditional Love
  • We Believe Black Lives Matter
  • It Takes All of Us

Other players had discussed kneeling during the offseason but decided against it, including Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

"After reading many letters and messages...I have been showed that a gesture such as kneeling will only create more division or discussion about the gesture, rather than be a solution towards our country's problem at hand," Mayfield wrote on Twitter Saturday.

The act of kneeling during the anthem was started by Colin Kaepernick in 2016 and continued into the 2017 season even after the quarterback remained an unsigned free agent. The NFL adjusted its anthem policy the next offseason to require players to stand or else remain in the locker room.

This offseason featured a change in tone following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed in police custody, as well as ensuing protests against police brutality around the world. Commissioner Roger Goodell responded with a video admitting the league was wrong in the past and encouraged players to protest peacefully.

He later said he would support any players who protest this season.


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