NFL players marked the first full weekend of professional football by participating in social justice demonstrations, with various teams opting to stay in the locker room, link arms or kneel during the national anthem.
All eyes were on the NFL players after a summer of protests against racial injustice years after former NFL player Colin Kaepernick first began kneeling during the anthem to demonstrate against police brutality and racial injustice.
Several NFL teams – including the Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars – remained in the locker room during “The Star-Spangled Banner” before their opening games on Sunday.
The first round of Sunday’s games began with the national anthem and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song celebrating Black Americans that the league has committed to playing before every game.
Eagles stayed in the locker room for the national anthem pic.twitter.com/1E1a5ksfY3— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) September 13, 2020
A few teams, including the Jaguars, announced their plans ahead of time to remain in the locker room during both songs “to continue raising awareness of racial injustice against the Black community.”
A number of players from other teams like the Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, as well as Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich, knelt during the anthem, USA Today reported.
The Minnesota Vikings game, held in the city where George Floyd's death at the hands of police in May sparked nationwide protests, did not start with the traditional sound of the Gjallarhorn “in honor of George Floyd and others who no longer have a voice due to racism.”
The Gjallarhorn will not be sounded today in honor of George Floyd and others who no longer have a voice due to racism. pic.twitter.com/tq0niGvU0i— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 13, 2020
The Washington Football Team took a different approach by kneeling as the names of victims of police brutality scrolled on the big screen.
The Washington team also joined the Philadelphia Eagles centerfield for “Lift Every Voice and Sing” where both teams locked arms and stood across from each other in a symbol of unity.
It takes all of us. pic.twitter.com/F24AelYOnV— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 13, 2020
Sunday’s games follow the NFL Thursday opener with the Houston Texans playing the 2020 Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Those two teams locked their arms during a moment of unity before the Texans left the field during “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and remained there for the national anthem. The crowd reacted to the demonstration with a mix of boos and cheers.
Professional athletes from other sports have demonstrated against racial injustice and supported the Black Lives Matter movement through field walk-offs, wearing Black Lives Matter jerseys and refusing to play.
Protests erupted across the U.S. after the deaths of Floyd and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., as well as the more recent police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.