The first Sunday of the NFL season happened to be the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, which meant flag waving and un-ironic appeals to American exceptionalism were up 15,000 percent. The visibly patriotic staging didn’t deter players from following Colin Kaepernick‘s lead and protesting the national anthem, though. Throughout the day, they showed their support for the quarterback’s political statement right before the concussion spectacles commenced.
The first protest was one of the blackest: While his teammates linked arms before their game against the San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters raised a black power fist while wearing a black glove, evoking Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ Black Power salute during the 1968 Olympic Games. Before kickoff, Peters spoke about his support of Kaepernick. “I’m 100 percent behind him,” he said. “I feel that what was going on in law enforcement, it does need to change. It does need to change for all, equal opportunities for everybody, not just us as black Americans.”
Marcus Peters of the Chiefs, raising his fist during anthem. Dissent – especially in this NFL climate, – is brave. pic.twitter.com/VaGNS5pD45
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) September 11, 2016
Later, the gesture popped up again: The New England Patriots’ Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty followed suit before their night game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Here are Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty raising their fists for the National Anthem. Patriots, both. pic.twitter.com/rDilAEaCUj
— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) September 12, 2016
The Miami Dolphins didn’t throw up the fist, but Arian Foster, Jelani Jenkins, Kenny Stills, and Michael Thomas followed Kaepernick’s lead by kneeling during the National Anthem before their game against the Seattle Seahawks. Foster, one of the league’s more outspoken running backs, defended doing the symbolic gesture during 9/11.
“It’s not about a knee, it’s not about the [symbolism], it’s about the message,” Foster said. “They say it’s not the time to do this, but when is the time?”
— James Walker (@JamesWalkerNFL) September 11, 2016