NFL players didn’t shy from making political statements during Week 1 in response to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit and kneel during the national anthem during the preseason as a social justice demonstration.

What the Washington Redskins did during the national anthem was different and had more to do with the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, however. Prior to the Redskins’ 38-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night, all the players left the sideline during the national anthem to help military personnel hold up the 100-yard flag covering the FedEx Field playing field.

Redskins players did something similar five years ago during the 10th anniversary before their season opener against the New York Giants on Sept. 11, 2011, when the team had a pregame ceremony to honor those that lost their lives that day.

“It was awesome, I tell you what,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said. “That was a bright spot. The fans came out in a big way, and the military presentation, Rob O’Neill, that gives you goosebumps all the way. The way the players took advantage, took part in it. That was fun to watch.”

Redskins players after the game said it wasn’t a planned moment. Many said they just reacted in the moment with the rest of their teammates. A few Steelers’ players also joined on the opposing sideline to hold the flag after the Redskins took part.

The gesture occurred during a time when players across the league have either joined Kaepernick’s cause to seek equality or condemned his actions as counterproductive and inappropriate for an NFL athlete to make such a statement with his platform, although Kaepernick has made it clear he is not attacking the military in his pursuit for justice.

“It was pretty powerful stuff,” linebacker Will Compton said. “It was just cool to be a part of that. It’s cool because people are using the opportunity to come together and kind of do what they feel is right but knowing that whatever decision these players are making, it’s out of the right intention. The other side of it, even if it’s rubbing some people the wrong way, I think guys are doing a good job of seeing that and doing something as far as bringing people together.”

Redskins players have had discussions in the locker room about Kapernick’s protest and the ripple effect it has had over the last few weeks. The Seattle Seahawks locked arms during the national anthem before their season opener while a few Miami Dolphins’ players took a knee on the opposing sideline. Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters threw his fist in the air during the anthem, an ode to Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’s political demonstration on the podium during the 1968 Summer Olympics.

The Redskins haven’t had a player demonstrate in that type of manner during the preseason, and they didn’t have a player do so during the season opener.

“I understand what Kaepernick was trying to do and get awareness, but at the same time, you’re kneeling and sitting down for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ ” defensive end Ricky Jean Francois said. “What message are you really trying to get out? You’re not getting nothing out. All you’re doing is … the media know how to take it, know how to spin a story and be like, ‘Well he sat down. He sat down.’ I saw some of the Dolphins’ players get down on a knee. I saw the Seattle Seahawks lock arms. All you’re doing is making awareness of it. If you actually want to get people’s attention and really want to shake up the world, there’s ways you can do it. Those ways, are they going to happen? I don’t know. But until somebody takes that one step to make the world shake, we’re going to keep going through this kneel down and acting like the movement is really doing something when it really ain’t.

“It’s not going to change the view of someone else and how the way they look at it. It’s not going to change the way people treat us. It’s not going to change how society runs. It’s not. If you want to get something done, there’s ways to get it done. But kneeling on the , I understand that’s your first step. Now let’s move on to the next step, and we don’t know what that is.”

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