At least for the time being, Colin Kaepernick won’t be taking a knee on the sideline during the playing of the National Anthem, primarily due to his, er.. lack of employment situation. But that clearly doesn’t mean that the massive distraction from America’s game is over. One of the bigger names in the sport, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, is now in the spotlight for failing to stand for the anthem. But was it a protest? Was it an oversight or misunderstanding?
The San Francisco Gate has at least some of the details, including comments from coach Jack Del Rio. At this point it’s a bit difficult to say what was going on.
The Raiders weren’t going to take any chances, so coach Jack Del Rio only used two offensive starters in Saturday night’s preseason-opening 20-10 loss to the Cardinals. Not only did quarterback Derek Carr, receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and running back Marshawn Lynch sit this one out, but Lynch sat on the bench during the national anthem.
Del Rio was surprised that Lynch sat during the anthem and talked to him afterward. (Lynch was long gone by the time the locker room doors opened).
“He said, ‘This is something I have done for 11 years. It’s not a form of anything other than me being myself,’” Del Rio said. “I told him I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem. But I respect him as a man and he can do his thing.
The fact that Del Rio said he was “surprised” tells me that didn’t see this coming and probably wasn’t sure what to make of it. As to Lynch saying he’s been doing that “for eleven years” according to the coach, that answer leaves some wiggle room which I’ll get to in a moment. Keep in mind that these two don’t have much of a history together (aside from the practice field) because Del Rio has only been coaching in Oakland for the past two seasons and was in Jacksonville prior to that. Lynch was only traded to Oakland officially this spring and played with Seattle and the Bills previously.
A quick search of the sports news from the past two seasons didn’t turn up any incidents of Lynch “protesting” in this fashion for me. And seriously… given how much controversy Kaepernick was generating, if someone of Lynch’s status in the game was protesting you’d think it would have made more news. That doesn’t mean he was out of the controversy entirely. Here’s a short segment he did with Conan last fall where he was asked about Kaepernick.
One of the key takeaways.
“If you’re not racist then you won’t see what he’s doing as a threat to America, but just addressing a problem that we have.”
He made it obvious that he was specifically speaking about police shootings rather than some sort of objection to the flag, the anthem or the nation as a whole. That was highlighted when he said, “I’d rather see him take a knee than put his hands up and get shot.”
So does Lynch plan on making a habit of this and turning it into “a thing” for Oakland? The coach is kind of delivering mixed messages, saying on the one hand that he “very strongly believes in standing for the National Anthem.” But he then turns around and calls it a “non-issue” for him if Lynch decides to sit. This ties into one of the main points I was making on the subject last season when all the attention was on Kaepernick. How much negative attention and stress your team is willing to put up with on your behalf is directly proportional to your performance and how much the management views you as an important piece of the puzzle that gets them to the playoffs.
Kaepernick’s numbers were good, but nothing spectacular and at least thus far nobody seems to want to take on that baggage for the sake of having him on the team. Marshawn Lynch is another matter entirely. He’s not only wearing a Super Bowl ring, but he’s got five Pro Bowl appearances and has twice been the rushing touchdown leader of the entire NFL. When you’re posting results like that, your team is going to be considerably more forgiving if you cause them a few bad headlines.
But yet again, it’s not clear to me that we’re looking at another protest. He wasn’t starting in that pre-season game and didn’t even have his pads on. He also wasn’t taking a knee or making speeches about America. He was sitting on the bench looking bored. Could that be what he meant by saying he “always does that?” If he’s not suited up he’s just really not paying attention?
Now the question is being asked nationally, so I suppose we’ll have our answer the first time he’s set to take the field. For the time being, his answer of it being, “not a form of anything other than me being myself” will have to do.