The Oakland Raiders’ entire offensive line plans to protest before the nationally televised Sunday Night Football game at 8:30 p.m. ET by kneeling during the National Anthem. Their show of unity follows President Donald Trump’s comments on Friday that NFL owners should fire players who do so, referring to players as a “son of a bitch.”
The Raiders’ plans were first reported by NFL.com reporter Ian Rapoport. The Raiders offensive line is the only offensive line made up entirely of African American players. They are left tackle Donald Penn, center Rodney Hudson, right guard Gabe Jackson, left guard Kelechi Osemele and right tackle Marshall Newsom.
Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch has already sat during the National Anthem this season. Owner Mark Davis also told ESPN that he supports his players’ right to free speech. He explained:
About a year ago, before our Tennessee game, I met with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack to ask their permission to have Tommie Smith light the torch for my father before the game in Mexico City. I explained to them that I was asking their permission because I had previously told them that I would prefer that they not protest while in the Raiders uniform. And should they have something to say, once their uniform was off, I might go up there with them. Over the last year, though, the streets have gotten hot and there has been a lot of static in the air and recently, fuel has been added to the fire. I can no longer ask our team to not say something while they are in a Raider uniform. The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class. Do it with pride. Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with answers. That’s the challenge in front of us as Americans and human beings.
The Raiders’ display of unity under the national spotlight isn’t the only one seen throughout the NFL today. The entire Pittsburgh Steelers team stayed in the locker room during the National Anthem.
And during the Jaguars-Ravens game in London, owner Shad Khan joined his players by kneeling during the anthem.
The NFL players’ protests came under the spotlight again after President Trump told owners on Friday night that they should fire players who don’t stand during the National Anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said during a speech in Alabama Friday night. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
Even after NFL owners and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell began defending their players’ rights to free speech, Trump stood by his comments.
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend,” he tweeted Sunday. “NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stood by Trump, even telling CNN that NFL owners should enact a rule forcing players to stand for the National Anthem. “Players have the right for free speech off the field,” Mnuchin said.
However, no player has been fired for not standing during the anthem, although Colin Kaepernick, who started the protest as a statement against police brutality last year, is still an un-signed free agent.
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” Goodell said in a statement. “There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”