Scott Bair

Lynch anthem issue could use some clarity

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Lynch anthem issue could use some clarity

NAPA – Marshawn Lynch sat during the national anthem during Saturday’s exhibition opener against Arizona. We’re still not sure why.

It’s assumed by many to be in protest of racial inequality and mistreatment of minorities, a timely sentiment following racially fueled violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Uncertainty remains because the Raiders running back hasn’t explained his reasoning. He contemplated speaking after Tuesday’s practice but decided against it.

That leave us left to wonder what was going through Lynch’s head. Was this a case of Marshawn being Marshawn, an unorthodox fellow who often swims upstream? Was he simply enjoying a seat and a banana, or was it politically motivated and worthy of being lumped into national anthem protests by Colin Kaepernick and others in 2016 and Michael Bennett on Sunday?

It seems that way while connecting dots, especially with Lynch’s support for Kaepernick in a 2016 interview with Conan O’Brien. The public doesn’t know for sure. Bennett made his protest crystal clear on Sunday, with an eloquent explanation following Seattle’s exhibition against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Lynch could’ve cleared things up and didn’t. That leaves many left to wonder. Silence, in these cases, breeds speculation. We’ll try to avoid that here. Lynch doesn’t speak to the press, and I don’t mind a bit. This instance is an exception. Insight could direct this unguided narrative with a Tweet, a statement or a few moments in front of a microphone. His message, if there is one, loses power without backing. If it was designed to illuminate issues in this country, Lynch must direct the spotlight. If his choice to sit wasn't socially charged, then let's put the issue to bed and re-focus on Raiders football.

It’s uncertain whether Lynch will address it this week, this season or ever.

The Raiders hope to avoid the topic altogether and let this incident blow over. It hasn’t been a major topic in the locker room. Head coach Jack Del Rio didn’t add anything in his Tuesday press conference, referring to a Saturday postgame statement on the matter where he called it a non-issue.

The Raiders’ belief, it seems, is that a fire won’t burn without fuel.

Del Rio strongly believes in standing at attention for the national anthem. That’s been clear for a year, when he expressed that sentiment following Kaepernick’s anthem protests.

That didn’t stop Raiders linebackers Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith from holding up a fist during the national anthem a few times in 2016, though those actions didn’t last long.

Del Rio said Saturday that he respects the fact Lynch is his own man and hasn’t always stood for the national anthem. There were times in Seattle when he wasn’t present for the Star Spangled Banner. There were times he sat and times he stood at attention. He was never asked whether it was a form protest. Kaepernick started the movement last year, one Lynch couldn’t join while retired from football.

There’s no telling what Lynch will do Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams, the first time he’ll represent the Raiders in Oakland. No matter what he does, it’ll be news. With or without an explanation. Lynch doesn’t feel the need to satisfy public demand for insight, and won’t simply bow to public pressure.

Anthem protests can bring attention to social causes, but they’re polarizing to be sure. That’s the case in public, among football fans and cable-news junkies alike.

NFL locker rooms are full of different personalities, united under a common goal. Del Rio wants his guys focused only on that heading toward a season with lofty expectations.

“We want to have a collection of individuals that come together as a team to play football,” Del Rio told USA Today’s Lindsay Jones. “We don't need everybody in the organization to think the same way I think, or have the same feelings that I have about different topics.

“I mean, we're in America. That's one of the things we have. We have the freedom to be ourselves.”

Lynch is certainly his own man, a unique personality who has devoted great time, money and effort to improving his native Oakland.

Bennett explained his motivation for sitting during the anthem in a first-person narrative posted by Yahoo! Sports, and said seeing Lynch sit wasn’t a shock. Bennett also believes Lynch sat down for a cause.

“It didn’t surprise me that Marshawn Lynch sat, too,” Bennett said. “I think he’s one of the people in the forefront who are making changes in the community. That’s what he believes in. I think we both believe in our community, we both believe that people can be great. We don’t believe that this is the end; we believe there’s more out there – there are more things we can do as people, more ways to challenge ourselves.”

Raiders TE Cook 'proud' of Marshawn, but will he join the RB?

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AP

Raiders TE Cook 'proud' of Marshawn, but will he join the RB?

NAPA –  Raiders tight end Jared Cook hasn't formally spoken to teammate Marshawn Lynch about his decision to sit during the national anthem during Saturday’s exhibition opener against Arizona. 

It’s assumed by many to be in protest of racial inequality and mistreatment of minorities, especially on the heels of racially fueled violence in Charlottesville, Va. Count Cook among them.

The veteran running back has remained mum on the matter in public and, with Cook at least, in private.

If he was in fact protesting by sitting out the national anthem, tight end Cook is glad Lynch took a stand. Cook has stood up against racial inequality, most notably after racial unrest caused by police shootings in Ferguson, Mo., while with the St. Louis Rams. He said it’s vital to speak out against injustice.

“I’m proud of him,” tight end Jared Cook told reporters, with quotes via the Associated Press. “I think it’s awesome. Everybody has points of discussion after what happened in Charlottesville just the night before. I think it’s important for men in our position to step up and speak on unnecessary situations we find ourselves in as minorities in this country. That’s why I’m proud of him.”

Former 49ers Colin Kaepernick became the face of the anthem protest movement last year, when he kneeled during the national anthem and was joined by others around the league.  

Cook said he has thought about joining a new round of protests, including one executed by Seattle’s Michael Bennett before a Sunday exhibition against the Los Angeles Chargers. Unlike Lynch, Bennett articulated his reasoning well in postgame comments. Cook said it’s uncertain whether he’ll join in.

“As far as the future goes, I don’t know. I don’t know,” he said. “I know I feel uneasy about the situation going on in this country and have been for a while.”

Practice report: Absent from preseason game, Raiders' stars return from injury

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AP

Practice report: Absent from preseason game, Raiders' stars return from injury

NAPA – The Raiders were pretty banged up last week, missing several key players due to injury. That crew sat out Saturday’s preseason opener along with several other scratches sidelined to sustain health.

Several of those guys returned for Tuesday’s padded practice, with some big names among them. Receiver Amari Cooper and edge rusher Khalil Mack returned to work. So did second-round safety Obi Melifonwu.

That’s an important trio.

Cooper was active after missing six of seven practices, and looked great despite wearing a compression sleeve on his left leg.

One play in particular proved Cooper was ready to go. He blew past Antonio Hamilton and Reggie Nelson on a deep post and caught a perfectly timed deep ball from Derek Carr for a touchdown. Cooper made it look easy, and should continue practicing steadily this week.

Mack was limited during team drills, though that was the case when he was healthy. The Raiders have given significant reps to backup James Cowser, who continues to impress working with the first unit. The reigning defensive player of they year has been impactful when active as he moves toward the regular season.

Melifonwu remained limited to a few individual drills as he returns from an undisclosed ailment. He has suited up a few times, but hasn’t participated heavily in over a week.

QUICK SLANTS
-- Offensive lineman Denver Kirkland suffered a leg injury during Saturday’s exhibition at Arizona, and was carted to the locker room from the sideline. Head coach Jack Del Rio said Kirkland won’t practice again in camp, which has two practices remaining. Kirkland could be out an extended stretch.

-- Sean Smith got demoted to the second unit last week, was used some as a hybrid linebacker and struggled mightily against the Cardinals. Smith took a small step in a positive direction on Tuesday, with his best practice showing yet. He worked outside in the nickel package – TJ Carrie moved from the outside in – and knocked down a pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone. He made a few other nice plays on the ball working there as well.

-- Antonio Hamilton worked some as a first-unit nickel back over undrafted rookie Breon Borders on Tuesday, though the Raiders jumbled units several times during the practice session.