Four Washington Redskins players raised their fists during the national anthem before Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.
Washington’s players hadn’t made headlines during the anthem protests that have spread across football this month, but DeSean Jackson, Niles Paul, Greg Toler and Rashad Ross changed that Sunday afternoon. (Paul is one of five Redskins captains.)
“We felt like there’s a lot going on out there in our country now,” Jackson said after the game. “We feel like we have an opportunity to be seen and be heard. We just want to support our people in a time of crisis like this where you have a lot of tragic situations, a lot of people losing their family members due to senseless killings by these police officers and things like that. We just wanted to make a stand, and I think just really putting our fists up and supporting our culture is something important.
“We feel like something dramatic needs to happen in this society and our country nowadays with all the things that’s going on is kind of senseless. Hopefully us as professional athletes can maybe come together and stick together and just show that we support it. We feel for these families losing their loved ones.”
A number of NFL players have balled their fists, took a knee or sat on the bench over the last month, following San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s example in protesting social injustice and police shootings in the United States.
Ross said it was Jackson’s idea for the players to demonstrate. Toler said all four players decided to do it just minutes before they lined up for the national anthem. Toler wanted to make it clear that they do support police officers and members of the armed forces, but they wanted to use their platform to fight against injustice.
“People in general, man, you shouldn’t have hate in your heart,” Toler said. “You shouldn’t be able to just kill someone — man, woman, black, white or yellow. Everyone should definitely be tried in a court of law. That’s how it should be. This situation that we have going on right now and around the world, I just pray and hope we can get it resolved.”
“I feel like everyone has their own opinion and you shouldn’t look at anyone different off their opinion because we’re all different people,” Ross said. “I just did it because I thought it was right. It’s nothing against the national anthem. It never was against it. It’s about all these killings that’s going on that aren’t right.”
Paul declined comment on the matter.
After Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in the preseason, Washington Coach Jay Gruden said that the Redskins “haven’t had that issue here.” He also emphasized the franchise’s connection with the military.
The Redskins have “a ton of respect for what goes on for our country with those people,” Gruden said. “And for three minutes, for us to take our helmet off and stand up and give respect is how we treat it here with the Redskins.”
Jackson said he hopes change will come from professional athletes taking a stand over police shootings, but he also wants to show his support for the families that lost a loved one at the hands of police.
“I don’t do things to say, ‘Oh this is going to change.’ Or, ‘If you do this, this is going to change,’” Jackson said. “I look at it like I’m not a follower. I just feel like I just feel for the people that are losing their lives and their families. I just want to support them and show them that we stick together through a time of crisis and hopefully something does change. It might not change, but you still want to show that you definitely support the families and the people that lost loved ones.”
Jackson posted an emotional message on Instagram earlier this week after the fatal shooting of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher in Tulsa.
“No matter how much or what we stand 4 as black people this will continue to happen,” Jackson wrote. “Another [loved one] is [taken] from his family and killed unarmed. When will this [nonsense] stop. This man was shot & killed for what?? Was he a threat?? Us as black people are a threat, so just take our lives smh. The system been set up for us not to live and make it thru all this [nonsense]. Another RIP to [Crutcher] but they say have faith & trust?? In what them to keep killing our [loved ones]?”