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."

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

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

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:

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

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

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

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.