“The biggest thing that I just said to them, I said, ‘This has to be about respecting each other’s choice of what to do.’ I think that’s the most important thing,” Rivera told reporters after Thursday’s practice.
“It’s funny because people say, ‘Oh you should all kneel together, or you shouldn’t kneel, because it doesn’t show team unity.’ Well, I think that’s wrong. I think if half your team kneels and half your team stands and everybody respects that, that’s team unity. That to me really is. Because I am mature enough to respect your right as an American, the first amendment, to kneel, and please respect my right to stand. … The world is about compromise. It’s about respect. And if you don’t respect the person’s right, then you’re not respecting the first amendment. That’s the way I approach it.”
In the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in August, Rivera and team president Jason Wright decided to postpone a practice at FedEx Field so players, coaches and members of the football staff could have an open conversation about race and social justice. Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was tased and shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wis.
“That’s the thing a lot of our guys did express, that they didn’t want this to just go away,” Rivera said the day after their meetings. “They want to keep it alive, keep it fresh. There’s a regular quote that we used: ‘When the water’s boiling, don’t turn off the heat.’”
After the killing of George Floyd earlier in the year, Rivera announced several initiatives by the team, including the launch of its Black Engagement Network, to promote racial equality and provide career development and mentorship to the Black community.
Rivera, the son of a military veteran, recently told WRC that he plans to stand for the anthem, but will take a knee during the coin toss and wear a hat with the initials “J.L.” to pay tribute to the late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis.