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Raiders Running Back Marshawn Lynch Sits During National Anthem

Lynch, who did not play during his first game back from retirement, voiced support last year for Colin Kaepernick’s protest

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Back in the NFL after a year in retirement, new Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat during the national anthem before his team’s preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night.

Lynch was in uniform but did not play in Oakland’s 20-10 loss, and photos taken before the game showed him sitting on a cooler several yards behind the sideline, arms on his knees, as his teammates lined up for the anthem.

The action brings to mind one then–49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took before several preseason games last year as a means of protesting incidents of police brutality against people of color in the United States. Kaepernick later began kneeling on the sideline during the playing of the anthem, and in an appearance on Conan in September 2016, Lynch voiced his approval of Kaepernick’s manner of protest.

“My take on it is shit has to start somewhere, and if that was the starting point, I just hope people open up their eyes to see that there’s really a problem going on, and something needs to be done for it to stop,” Lynch said at the time. “And if you’re really not racist then you won’t see what he’s doing as a threat to America, but just addressing a problem that we have."

However, after the game, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said Lynch told him that he hadn’t stood for the anthem for 11 years and that “it’s not a form of anything other than me being myself.” “I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem,” Del Rio said he told Lynch in response, “but I’m going to respect you as a man. You do your thing, OK?”

“So that’s a non-issue for me,” Del Rio continued.

At the time of publication, the media-shy running back had not yet spoken with the press about his decision to sit during the anthem. Though Del Rio’s comments suggest that Lynch’s action was not new, it stood out after a day of racial violence in the country, as white nationalists and counter-protesters clashed during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The New York Times reported that 34 people were injured—at least 19 when a car sped into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman; the Department of Justice announced on Saturday night that it was opening a civil rights investigation into the incident.

Kaepernick remains an unsigned free agent, after an offseason of speculation about whether he is being frozen out by league owners for his political stances.

This piece was updated after publication to reflect Jack Del Rio’s postgame comments.