NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch sat on a cooler Saturday night during the national anthem, as his Oakland Raiders waited to play the Arizona Cardinals in a Phoenix preaseason game.
Taking an apparent cue from Colin Kaepernick’s oft-criticized protests from the 2016 season, Lynch ate a banana and did not stand in alignment with his teammates. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said postgame that he was “surprised” by Lynch’s decision. Lynch did not speak to the media Saturday night, but the move appears to be a reaction to Saturday’s violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In 2016, Lynch supported Kaepernick’s kneeling during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
“With what’s going on, I’d rather see him take a knee than stand up, put his hands up, and get murdered,” Lynch told ESPN last year. “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.”
Unlike Kaepernick, who struggled to regain his Super Bowl form of 2012 from 2013-2016 and is out of the league, Lynch is a Pro Bowl-caliber commodity. He’s among the most dominant running backs of the past decade, a Super Bowl winner, and returned from retirement this year to play for his hometown Raiders. (Lynch was born in Oakland.)
And apparently, Lynch is no stranger to sitting during the anthem.
“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 said, ‘So you understand how I feel, I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem. But I respect you as a man and you can do your thing.”
Del Rio added that the protest was a “non-issue” for him as a coach.
On Twitter, the nine most circulated tweets Sunday morning were supportive of Lynch’s protest. On ProFootballTalk.com, a hive of NFL fandom where comments come via anonymous usernames, Lynch was met with considerably more ridicule—and was called an “imbecile,” “classless,” and a “sad excuse for a human being.”