The first NFL game of its regular season brought its first anthem protest. Before a nationally televised contest Thursday against the Patriots, Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters sat on the bench during a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
On NBC’s telecast, announcer Al Michaels noted that Peters was the only player for Kansas City or New England to decline to stand for the anthem. Before the game, the third-year player, who was selected for the Pro Bowl after each of his first two seasons, posted a photo showing him holding cleats with the phrases “Liberty” and “Justice for all” written on the soles.
Before a preseason game in August, Peters rode a stationary bike on the Chiefs’ sideline while the anthem played. A year ago, before a regular season game, he raised his fist while standing for the anthem, as his teammates interlocked their arms.
“I’m just stating that I’m black and I love being black,” Peters said last year of his raised fist (via Arrowhead Pride). “I’m supporting Colin [Kaepernick] and what he’s doing as far as raising awareness with the justice system. I didn’t mean anything by it. I locked arms with my teammates. I talked with Coach [Andy Reid] and Coach said it was okay if I wanted to express my thoughts, and so I just expressed it.”
Kaepernick was the first NFL player last season to stage anthem protests, and many believe that is the reason that the free agent quarterback, formerly of the 49ers, has been unable to latch on with a team. In his absence during the preseason, many NFL players made their demonstrations, including the Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett and a dozen members of the Browns.
Several of those players have said that they plan to continue their protests in the regular season, including Bennett, who is planning a civil rights lawsuit against Las Vegas police after a recent incident of what he described as unnecessary force and racial profiling. In response to that news, league commissioner Roger Goodell said that the Seattle defensive lineman “represents the best of the NFL — a leader on his team and in his community.”
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