Sign in / Join

Marshawn Lynch’s anthem sit-down, and its impact on the Raiders

Bay Area News Group
August 13, 2017

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch (24) sits during the national anthem prior to the team's NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Marshawn Lynch made headlines the way he usually does — without saying a word.

And that’s only one of the reasons why a second go-round of a prominent player sitting for the national anthem won’t have the same furor or momentum it did a year ago when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stayed seated to protest racial injustice.

Lynch was long gone from the Raiders locker room by the time reporters arrived Saturday night in Arizona, leaving coach Jack Del Rio to do the talking.

Del Rio didn’t wait, addressing it in his opening statement. If Del Rio can get his linebackers to go at ball-carriers as aggressively as he tackled the Lynch story, maybe the Raiders defense won’t give up yards as easily as they did in the first half of a 20-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

“He said, ‘This is something I’ve done for 11 years. It’s not a form of anything other than me being myself’,” Del Rio relayed. “I said, ‘Just so you understand how I feel, I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem, but I’m going to respect you as a man. You do your thing, OK?’ So that’s a non-issue for me.”

(There has been no reporting of Lynch ever sitting for the anthem, although there were times he came out of the locker room late and wasn’t on the sidelines when it was played.)

The question is whether a story has “legs,” and Kaepernick was a veritable centipede given his predilection to for addressing it every other week or so when it was brought up by local or visiting media.

That’s all well and good. Kaepernick said what he believed, believed what he said and wanted to relay a message.That’s his right whether you agree with him or not.

Lynch, on the other hand, hasn’t spoken to the media since training camp began. The hope is he would talk once in Napa, but only three sessions remain until the club heads back to the club facility in Alameda.

Kaepernick told his story to NFL Media on the night he was seen sitting for the anthem. Lynch said nothing, at least not for public consumption.

And while the story won’t end there, it doesn’t leave a lot of food for the media beast unless Lynch cooperates and begins talking, perhaps linking the action to Saturday’s white supremacist rally and counter-protests in Charlottesville, Va.

Even if Lynch were to do that, rest assured the organization that employs him will be solidly in his corner in terms of acting on his own conscience.

Last season, Raiders owner Mark Davis invited Tommie Smith to light the torch in in honor of his father Al Davis when the Raiders played in Mexico City. The same Tommie Smith who raised a gloved fist in protest of racial oppression in the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 and had his gold medal stripped as a result.

Owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Steve Bisciotti of the Baltimore Ravens are too afraid of fan backlash to sign Kaepernick and Mark Davis is inviting Tommie Smith back to Mexico City. If owners have tacitly determined Kaepernick won’t play in the NFL, rest assured Davis isn’t going along with it.

Lynch’s action barely created a ripple in the post-game locker room.

“I didn’t know he sat,” quarterback EJ Manuel told reporters. “I think that’s a personal thing. Obviously, we all support Marshawn because he’s a part of our team, but I really think that is more of a personal thing. I can’t really comment on it too much.”

Then again, player reaction was fairly muted throughout the league last year, a fact that pretty much went under the radar because of the level of debate everywhere else. It was ownership and some management types that couldn’t get behind the notion of free speech.

The 49ers players were so put off by Kaepernick they voted him the Len Eshmont Award as the team’s most inspirational player.

The Raiders in fact, based on geography, ownership and a long history of being iconoclasts, would be the ideal landing spot for Kaepernick. That assumes, of course, that Kaepernick would be OK with being a distant second-string to franchise quarterback Derek Carr.

For now, Manuel, a former first-round draft pick, appears to be in the lead to be the backup over second-year quarterback Connor Cook.

But if both were to falter through either injury or performance, the Raiders would be advised to make the call to Kaepernick and they have the only owner in the NFL who wouldn’t have a problem with it.

Now that would be a story with legs.

Leave a reply