Colin Kaepernick says he will stand for the national anthem this season – if he manages to find a team – but his message lives on.
Prior to Saturday’s pre-season game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch appeared to sit out the national anthem. Kaepernick did not stand for the anthem last season as a protest at racial injustice in the US, and several other players followed his example. Lynch was not one of them – the 31-year-old had retired from the NFL and did not play last season but chose to return to his hometown Raiders earlier this year.
Lynch, a five-time Pro Bowler, is known for shunning the media and did not elaborate on his decision to sit out the anthem. The Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said he had spoken to the running back about his decision after the game.
“[Lynch] 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, ‘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, and we’ll do ours.’ So that’s a non-issue for me.”
Photos suggest Lynch stood for the anthem during his previous career in the NFL but last year he expressed his support for Kaepernick’s protest.
“With what’s going on, I’d rather see him take a knee than stand up, put his hands up and get murdered,” Lynch said during an appearance on Conan. “So my take on it is, shit has to start somewhere, and if that was the starting point, I just hope people open up their eyes to see that there’s really a problem going on, and something needs to be done for it to stop. And if you’re really not racist then you won’t see what he’s doing as a threat to America, but just addressing a problem that we have.”
Kaepernick’s protest was criticized by some as unpatriotic and disrespectful to the military – something that the quarterback denied. Kaepernick has failed to find a place on a team this season despite a solid record in the NFL, leading many to believe he is being blackballed by league owners.
“You don’t have 32 starting-level quarterbacks in this league,” said the Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, a former team-mate of Lynch, in March. “You have about eight elites, and then you have the rest of the league. You have about eight, nine elite quarterbacks. You have two or three who have the potential to be elite. And then you have the rest of the teams.
“So [Kaepernick] could play and start on a ton of teams in this league. He would be a starter on probably 20 of the teams in this league. But you’re telling me that you’re going to let other guys, you’re going to pick up some of these other guys and tell me that they’re starters?”