Washington Football Team Coach Ron Rivera has made it clear in multiple interviews over the past few months that he will support any of his players who decide to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice and police brutality but that he will stand at attention during the pregame ritual. On Monday, Rivera revealed what he will do on game day to show his continued support for the Black Lives Matter movement, including a tribute to late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, who died last month.
“I’m going to put the initials JL for John Lewis [on my hat],” Rivera told WRC on Monday. “That way, when people ask me why, I can say because he was an advocate for voter rights.”
Rivera also said he will kneel during the pregame coin toss.
“I don’t want the message to be contorted when it comes to, ‘Oh, well, you kneeled during the anthem,’ ” Rivera said. “I’m going to make sure that my message that I have will be during the coin toss. For anybody that disagrees with me, well, I’m sorry, but it’s my right.”
Rivera told the Athletic last month that he was considering taking a knee during the coin toss. In the same interview, he explained why, given his military upbringing, he wouldn’t feel comfortable kneeling during the national anthem.
Washington Football head coach Ron Rivera tells @RealLeonHarris he will kneel during the coin toss and stand during the national anthem on game day. He will also have the initials "JL" on his hat to honor late Congressman John Lewis @nbcwashington pic.twitter.com/qBCKPU2LN6— NBC4 Sports (@NBC4Sports) August 24, 2020
“I’m not going to kneel, because my father served in the military,” Rivera said. “My brother was a first responder. My wife’s family was in the military. My dad had brothers that served in World War II. So, to me, standing at attention is what I’m going to do. That’s how I’m going to honor them.”
In the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody in May and Washington Football Team running back Adrian Peterson joining several NFL players in saying they plan to kneel during the national anthem this season, Rivera said he reread the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the president’s oath of office. He did the same thing as coach of the Carolina Panthers in 2018 after the team signed safety Eric Reid, who knelt alongside San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem before games in 2016 to protest police brutality.
“[Reid] helped me to understand what Colin Kaepernick’s protest was really about,” Rivera told WRC. “Now, I could never kneel [during the national anthem] because of my family’s background, and I just believe that I shouldn’t. But it helped me to understand and appreciate the message they’re trying to get out.”
Rivera reiterated the message he has for his players who choose to kneel during the national anthem.
“I will respect your right,” he said. “I will respect your First Amendment right. If that’s what you’re going to do during the national anthem, then so be it. But I will stand.”
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