GLENDALE, Ariz. – Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat during the national anthem before Saturday’s preseason game at Arizona.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio didn’t know he was going to do that. The two discussed it afterward and came to an understanding.
Del Rio prefers his players stand at attention for the national anthem, a view he expressed after former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the song protesting racial inequality and police brutality against minorities.
Lynch told Del Rio he has been sitting forever.
“I talked to Marshawn to make sure we’re on the same page,” Del Rio said after a 20-10 loss to the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. “He said, ‘This is something I’ve done for 11 years. It’s not a form of anything other than me being myself.’ I said, 'So you understand how I feel, I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem, but I will respect you as a man. You do your thing.’ So it’s a non-issue for me.”
Several media outlets photographed Lynch sitting on a cooler, munching on a banana during the national anthem.
The issue was polarizing when Kaepernick protested last year and was joined by several players across the country. Raiders linebackers Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith joined in early last year, by standing through the anthem with a raised fist before a game at Tennessee.
Lynch sitting down was immediately lumped in with those incidents. Lynch voiced support for Kaepernick while speaking to talk-show host Conan O’Brien last year, and Saturday’s sit-down came right after racially-motivated protests and violence recently took place in Charlottesville, Va.
Lynch did not clarify why he generally sits during the national anthem, as he told Del Rio. He left the Raiders locker room before it was open to the media. He did not speak with the press.