O’Rourke invited four former players: Michael Lynn III, Matthew Abdullah, Kabbalah Richards, and RoJe Williams, all of whom were benched in 2017 after taking a knee. Richards is unable to attend the debate because he is away at college.

The African American students were inspired by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who captured national attention in 2015 when he began kneeling during pregame ceremonies to protest racist policing.

The former Texas congressman said the four men “have served their community in one of the most American ways possible,” in a statement provided to the Associated Press.