Their teammate, Marshawn Lynch, chose to sit in protest during the national anthem, but Derek Carr and Khalil Mack had a different statement in mind before kickoff of the Oakland Raiders’ preseason game Saturday.
The quarterback and the linebacker stood together, with Carr placing his hand on Mack’s back as a statement of solidarity as the two stood for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“We wanted to show them that it’s OK for a white kid and a black kid that come from two different neighborhoods [to] grow up and love one another and be best friends,” Carr said (via ESPN), “and that’s what me and Khalil are. We’re best friends and we love one another.”
Many athletes of varying ages, across all sports, have elected to make a statement about social injustice since Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police brutality began last summer, but both Carr and Mack strove to clarify the message they hoped came through.
“We see what’s going on in the world and, obviously, everyone pays attention to the national anthem nowadays, and so we just said this was the best time to do it while still honoring our country,” Carr said. “Because I love this country, more than anything. We’re free to live here and play this game, but we’re also free to show each other that we love one another. And I think that that’s the message, and that’s the only message we were trying to get out.”
The protest came a week after violence in Charlottesville, resulted in the death of Heather Heyer and hours after peaceful demonstrations in Boston.
“To show [that] different races can get along, white, black, whatever you are, get along and be friends and . . . just show unity,” Mack said of their purpose. “Show togetherness. It’s discussed a lot. It’s one of the things I feel passionately about, but I just don’t like the attention, the attention that comes with it. But at the same time, just using my platform for positivity is what’s important for me.”
Carr said he isn’t ready to take the message he and Mack shared any further than the sideline. Still, it was an effective message.
“I’m not a politician, I’m not anything like that. I’m not trying to be a spokesperson,” Carr added. “All I’m trying to show these kids [who look up to athletes] is that I love everybody. And all Khalil was trying to do is show these kids that he loves everybody as well.”
Last Wednesday, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett called upon white players to join their teammates in accomplishing change.
“It would take a white player to really get things changed,” Bennett said on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” “because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it, it would change the whole conversation. Because you bring somebody who doesn’t really have to be a part of the conversation, making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a big jump.”
Chris Long took that to heart and, during the playing of the anthem before the Philadelphia Eagles’ preseason game Thursday night, he placed his hand on Malcolm Jenkins’ back as Jenkins raised his fist. Later, Long explained that he had been inspired by those who stood up to white supremacists, like Heyer, in Charlottesville.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say you need white athletes to get involved in the anthem protests,” said Long, who attended the University of Virginia (via ESPN). “I’ve said before I’ll never kneel for an anthem, because the flag means something different for everybody in this country, but I support my peers. And if you don’t see why you need allies for people that are fighting for equality right now, I don’t think you’ll ever see it. So my thing is, Malcolm is a leader, and I’m here to show support as a white athlete.”