Players and coaches for the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals took to midfield Thursday night, locked arms and stood for the national anthem. The gesture of unity follows a week when some NFL players and coaches took a knee or raised a fist during it. The backlash from some fans has been swift, while others have supported players taking a stand by taking a knee.
Last week, during the season opening Thursday Night Football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and and Houston Texans, fans booed when players locked arms in a show of unity and support for Black Lives Matter. So, what was the reaction this week? Mostly positive.
Players kneeling during the national anthem has been a controversial issues since Colin Kaepernick, then quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, took a knee in 2016 to protest police brutality. Since then, it’s become one of the most controversial topics in all of sports. Many attribute the NFL’s falling ratings to fans turning on the league for the practice. Several people have said they’d return to watching the sport if players would stand for the national anthem again.
The NFL is addressing social justice issues in other ways. The league announced in June it would allow players to use helmet badges and decals to “honor victims of systemic racism, victims of police brutality, and social justice heroes.”
Some fans hope the practice of standing together, arms locked in solidarity, will become the norm. A show of unity in a time dominated by division and anger.