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Here Are The Athletes Protesting During The National Anthem

Since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained seated during the national anthem, a number of other athletes across the country — from high schoolers to pros — followed his lead.

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stirred controversy and launched a renewed form of nationwide protest when he remained seated during the national anthem at a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 26.

Kaepernick told NFL Media he refused to stand for a country that oppresses black people.

“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way," he said. "There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick's refusal to stand during another preseason game, on Sept. 1, elicited boos from the crowd and both criticism and praise.

President Barack Obama said the quarterback was “exercising his constitutional right to make a statement." Meanwhile, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said "maybe [Kaepernick] should find a country that works better for him."

A number of athletes of all ages — from high school to pro — across the nation followed suit by sitting, kneeling, or raising a fist when the national anthem was played at their respective games. Here's how the silent protests have unfolded.

Safety Eric Reid joined Kaepernick in taking a knee during the national anthem at a second 49ers preseason game against the San Diego Chargers.

"My goal is to bring awareness to issues of our country and helping to effectuate positive changes for the betterment of our communities," Reid said in a statement he posted on Twitter. "In kneeling, I hope to accomplish that goal and relate the act to that of the flag being at half mast."

Reid said one of the issues he's protesting is police brutality and police discrimination. "It is important to note that I do not believe all police take part in these acts, however, there has been vast injustice for the people in situations that they do," Reid wrote.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane sat during the national anthem before a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.

"I thought about it for a week or so and I just think it's okay for me to do it," Lane said at the time. "I wasn't trying to say anything, just standing behind Kaepernick."

Lane said he plans on sitting during the anthem, "until I feel like justice is being served."

Rodney Axson, a 16-year-old football player from Ohio's Brunswick High School, took a knee during the national anthem to protest racial slurs used against him.

Axson said he overheard two teammates use the N-word in the locker room, so he protested the racial injustice by sitting during the anthem.

Axson told the New York Daily News his protest was not preplanned.

"I didn't show up to the game thinking that I would kneel for the national anthem," he said.

The teenage football player said the racial slur was used against him in the following days as well.

Sept. 4: Megan Rapinoe, Seattle Reign

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with Kaepernick.

Rapinoe, who plays for the Seattle Reign and is a member of the US women's national soccer team, knelt during a game against the Chicago Red Stars.

“It’s the least I can do. Keep the conversation going,” Rapinoe tweeted after the game.

"Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties," Rapinoe told American Soccer Now. "It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It's important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don't need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that's really powerful."

#USWNT midfielder Megan Rapinoe kneels during the national anthem before her game against Thailand in Columbus

She took a knee during the national anthem again on Sept. 15 during a friendly US women's soccer match against Thailand in Columbus, Ohio.

U.S. Soccer put out a statement during the game that the organization expected players to stand for the anthem, ESPN W reported.

"In front of national and often global audiences, the playing of our national anthem is an opportunity for our Men's and Women's National Team players and coaches to reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in this country. As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the national anthem is played," the statement read.

Sept. 7: Three West Virginia Tech women's volleyball players

Three West Virginia Tech volleyball players followed Colin Kaepernick on Wednesday. https://t.co/iaU4VcTuTV #49ers

Three black volleyball players at West Virginia Tech University took a knee during the national anthem.

Keyonna Morrow, one of the athletes who also serves as the vice president of the university's Black Student Union, told local ABC news station WCHS that she felt the need to participate and show support for Colin Kaepernick.

"Everyone should be treated equally, no matter their color age, sex anything. Everyone needs to be on one page, everyone needs to be treated the same way,” she said.

Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, who is a former teammate of Kaepernick's from the University of Nevada, took a knee during the national anthem at the NFL's regular-season opener against the Carolina Panthers.

"Kaep, he's using his platform how he wants to use it, to reach the masses," Marshall told The Gazette. "We have freedom of speech. But then we use our platform, and we get bashed for it. It's almost like they want to only go with the grain. And once we go against the grain, it's an issue. I feel for Kaep. I understand where he's coming from, and I support him."

On Sept. 9, one of Marshall's sponsors, the Air Academy Federal Credit Union, announced that it would terminate its partnership with him.

"AAFCU is a membership-based organization who has proudly served the military community for over 60 years. While we respect Brandon’s right of expression, his actions are not a representation of our organization and membership. We wish Brandon well on his future endeavors," the credit union stated on Facebook.

The following Monday, Sept. 12, a second sponsor dropped Marshall.

Telecommunications company CenturyLink said in a statement, "While we acknowledge Brandon's right, we also believe that whatever issues we face, we also occasionally must stand together to show our allegiance to our common bond as a nation. In our view, the national anthem is one of those moments."

"For this reason, while we wish Brandon the best this season, we are politely terminating our agreement with him," the statement ended.

Marshall may have gained a sponsor in the midst of his protest. On Sept. 13, music mogul Russell Simmons announced on Instagram that he wanted to "find Brandon and make him an offer and make him a deal."

Two student athletes at Lincoln Southeast High School in Nebraska — one named Sterling Smith — kneeled during the national anthem before a game.

Sept. 9: Tre Chappell at Waggener High School in Louisville, Kentucky

Following Colin Kaepernick's lead a Waggener player takes a knee during the national anthem @WHAS11 @WHAS11Sports

Tre Chappell, a junior running back/linebacker at Waggener High, took a knee during the national anthem before a game.

A number of other students also kneeled but then stood up as soon as the music began playing, according to USA Today.

The team's coach supported the student's silent protest, saying it was "meant in no disrespect to any group of people."

“A young man made a decision to make a stand for what he feels is an injustice to him and his peers,” coach Jordan Johnson told USA Today. “We are taking steps for next Friday to ensure our young men can make a stand for social injustice, while at the same time not showing, what is perceived as, disrespect."

Sept. 9: Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia

Before tonight's game, most of Maury High football team took a knee during the National Anthem. (Submitted photo)

Several players from the Maury High School football team took a knee during the national anthem.

“Our school system has said, we’re of the belief, we let our guys do what they believe in,” coach Chris Fraser, who stood during the anthem, told the Virginia Pilot. "And so we didn't make an issue of it, and if they believe in a cause, that's fine. I stand behind what they believe in, but I'm going to do what I believe in."

Sept. 9: Watkins Mill High School, Montgomery County, Maryland

Several players on the Watkins Mill High football team took a knee before a game.

"We just wanted to make a statement that America is not what you think it is," junior quarterback Market Grant said, according to the Washington Post.

A player asked their coach for permission, according to the Post. Coach Mike Brown reportedly told the players, "The choice is yours."

“I said, ‘Think about what you’re doing. Understand why you’re doing it,’” Brown said.

Sept. 9: Mike Oppong, Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, Massachusetts

Thanks to all your love and support my suspension of 1 game has been terminated!

Mike Oppong, a junior at Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, Massachusetts, initially believed he would be suspended for one game after kneeling during his team's season opener.

On Sunday, Oppong tweeted that he was suspended, but on Monday he said the suspension was overturned.

On Monday, Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Maureen Binienda said it was "very clear that [protesting] is their constitutional right and no discipline can follow."

Sept. 9: Mara Green, Florida State University women's volleyball

#FSU Volleyball player Mara Green takes a knee during #NationalAnthem. We'll have Green's reason why @ 11 on @WCTV

Mara Green, a senior on FSU's women's volleyball team, knelt during the national anthem before a home game against Baylor University and has done so before every game since, she told BuzzFeed News.

Green tweeted shortly after the story was published on Sept. 13 that she "can not stand for a flag that represents a country of people who will not take a stand against racial justice."

I can not stand for a flag that represents a country of people who will not take a stand against racial injustice. https://t.co/ecE5vHGw0M

Green's coach Chris Poole said in a statement after the game that she had told him ahead of time about intentions to protest.

"Florida State University is an institution of higher learning that recognizes a student’s right to freedom of expression. Similarly, I respect Mara’s right to freely express herself," he said.

Sept. 10: Beaumont Bulls youth football in Texas

11 & 12 y/o Beaumont Bulls football team in TX asked their coaches if they could kneel. All 22 players joined in.

A Beaumont, Texas, photographer said he was asked to capture the moment youth football players silently protested during the national anthem.

The photographer told 12News the middle school players wanted to "protest violence against black youth."

Football players and their coaches at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, New Jersey, took a knee during the national anthem.

Preston Brown, the team's coach, informed the athletes about his plan to kneel on Friday, according to NBC News.

"I am well aware of the third verse of the national anthem which is not usually sung, and I know that the words of the song were not originally meant to include people like me," Brown told NBC.

Two students chose not to kneel, Brown said.

Sept. 10: Mission High School in San Francisco, California

The entire football team at San Francisco's Mission High School took a knee during the national anthem before a game, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The team's coach, Greg Hill, told the Chronicle that the squad is very diverse, with several black, Hispanic, Asian, and white players.

Their captain, 17-year-old Niamey Harris, explained that he and a few other leaders gathered the team together before the game and asked them to join them in protest.

"This is for helping everybody else in the world to understand that black people and people of color are going though difficulties and they need help. It’s not going to take care of itself," Harris told the team.

The Chronicle reported that the team plans to continue kneeling during the national anthem throughout the season.

Peters raised his fist as his teammates “decided collectively to lock arms as a sign of solidarity" according to a statement released on behalf of all Chiefs players

"It was our goal to be unified as a team and to be respectful of everyone's opinions," the statement reads.

Last week Peters said he was "100 percent behind" Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem.

Sept. 11: Devin McCourty and Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots

Devin McCourty & Martellus Bennett both with raised fists during national anthem. #Patriots

New England Patriots' Devin McCourty and Martellus Bennett raised their firsts during pregame ceremonies against the Arizona Cardinals.

McCourty told reporters after the game that he did not protest during the national anthem out of respect for the country and the American flag.

"[On Sunday] I wore socks with the American flag," McCourty said. "I believe in this country. I love this country. My father was in the Army. My older brother was in the Army. Those men and women go out there and put their life on the line. I respect that."

McCourty said he plans on doing more for social injustices than silently protesting at NFL games.

"We've talked as players throughout the league trying to make change in our communities one by one using our platform, not just doing it on Sundays and game days," he said. "We've talked about different things we're going to try to do to help the country and help our communities out."

The four Miami Dolphins players took a knee during the national anthem at a game against the Seattle Seahawks.

“We encourage all members of our organization to stand at attention during the national anthem out of respect and appreciation for the freedoms we are afforded as Americans,” the team said in a statement following the game. “We also recognize that it’s an individual’s right to reflect during the anthem in different ways."

Last month Foster told the Miami Herald he understands why Kaepernick sat during the national anthem, but said he wouldn't be following his lead.

"I don't necessarily see that as a solution to anything," Foster said at the time. "Would I not stand up for the pledge [of allegiance]? Me? No. I don't see the correlation, in my opinion. But I understand what he's doing."

Seattle Seahawks plays linked arms during the national anthem at Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin revealed the players' plan in a video posted to Twitter on Saturday.

"We are a team comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds," Baldwin says in the video. "And as a team we have chosen to stand and interlock arms in unity. We honor those who have fought for the freedoms we cherish. And we stand to assure the riches of freedom and the security of justice for all people. Progress can and will be made only if we stand together."

Head coach Pete Carroll expressed his support for the team's decision prior to Sunday's game.

"They're going to be very thoughtful, very respectful, honoring that which should be recognized," Carroll said. "I'm just really proud of how they've gone through it."

After the game, the Seahawks' Twitter account posted a photo of the players linking arms with the hashtag #BuildABridge.

Tennessee Titans players Jurrell Casey, Wesley Woodyard, and Jason McCourty raised their fists prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Sept. 12: Los Angeles Rams' Robert Quinn, Kenny Britt with Kaepernick and Reid

2 forms of protest during nat'l anthem. Kaepernick kneels, Robert Quinn, Kenny Britt old school fist. Game on @ABC7

The Rams' Robert Quinn and Kenny Britt raised their fists as Kaepernick and 49ers teammate Eric Reid again took a knee.

Sept. 16: Laguna Creek High School football team in Elk Grove, California

Facebook: elkgrovecitizen

Before their game, 12 Laguna Creek High School varsity football players knelt during the national anthem. The Elk Grove Citizen reported that the act "was influenced by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick."

The Elk Grove School District administration announced on Sept. 19 that the students would not face any disciplinary action for their protest.

"Whether EGUSD student athletes stand or kneel during the playing of the anthem, we support their right to peacefully express their opinion on a matter of personal significance," district spokesperson Xanthi Pinkerton said, according to the Citizen.

The Philadelphia Eagles' Steven Means, Malcolm Jenkins, and Ron Brooks raised their fists during the national anthem at the Eagles' game against the Chicago Bears.

Means told ESPN last month that he would only protest after giving the issue serious thought.

Jenkins said in an earlier interview with the Philadelphia Daily News that he would not be joining Kaepernick in kneeling during the anthem, citing his friends and family members who had served in the military. However, he added that he respected Kaepernick's passion and commitment.

"I’m a guy of conviction. I speak out on the things that I see," he said. "So I can’t really look at what he’s doing and tell him he’s wrong.’’

Sept. 20: The Oakland Unified School District’s Honor Band, California

Facebook: ousdnews

Members of the OUSD Honor Band took a knee during the national anthem before the Oakland A's game, the school district said on its Facebook page.

"Towards the end of the song, most of the 155 middle and high school students took a knee in protest against police brutality and unfair treatment of people of color in America," the Facebook post said. "The crowd responded with enthusiastic applause."

A video showed the teenage band members kneeling down as they played the national anthem.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com


Sept. 21: the women of the Indiana Fever

The ENTIRE @IndianaFever WNBA team kneeled during the national anthem tonight. Power to the people!

All members of the Indiana Fever took a knee during the WNBA team's game against the Phoenix Mercury.

The decision was made by the players in the locker room, the Indianapolis Star reported. It came as a surprise to Coach Stephanie White, who told the Star she was proud of her players.

"Something like this creates conversation, and that’s how we create change,” she said. “We don’t create change by seeing it on the news and waiting until next time. People who have the platforms have the ability to affect change, and I’m proud of our group for using the platform in a respectful manner.”


BuzzFeed News will continue to update this post as protests happen.


Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Mary Ann Georgantopoulos at maryann.georgantopoulos@buzzfeed.com.

Tamerra Griffin is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based Nairobi, Kenya.

Contact Tamerra Griffin at tamerra.griffin@buzzfeed.com.

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