As Indianapolis Colts players stood with arms locked during the national anthem on Sunday, head coach Frank Reich took a knee.
The moment before their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was the most notable act of protest during the NFL’s first slate of Sunday games in 2020 following an offseason of social unrest in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Some Colts players were seen wearing shirts calling for bail reform.
Seen some comments about this T-shirt the colts are wearing today. My assumption is this is a statement about bail reform more than anything else. Fact is, people do often sit in jail for months on end awaiting trial for minor crimes because they’re broke. pic.twitter.com/TGCMtqMtlg— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) September 13, 2020
Colts active in calls for change
The Colts have have made multiple social justice statements during the offseason, and linebacker Darius Leonard vowed Thursday that the team would make a “bold statement” together during Sunday’s game.
In the aftermath of the NBA wildcat strike protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Colts canceled a day of training camp and announced a multi-point plan to engage with the Black community in Indiana that includes getting people registered to vote, engaging with law enforcement to improve relationships with Black communities, and providing food for low-income communities.
Of COURSE all lives matter, but the phrase “BLACK LIVES MATTER” is about unequal treatment faced by BLACK Americans. It does not say or imply that ONLY black lives matter. E.g., when we say “BEAT BREAST CANCER” it doesn't mean we don't care about beating leukemia.— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) August 31, 2020
Colts explains protest
After Sunday’s pregame protest, the team released a statement explaining what it meant to have their white head coach take a knee.
“Today, our football team made a statement on behalf of the Black communities from where our players and coaches call home,” the statement reads. “Our intent is to bring attention to the issue of systemic racism and the injustice inherent therein. We also wanted to demonstrate a symbolic gesture of how we believe meaningful change happens.”
We will not be silent.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 13, 2020
We will not be neutral.
We will not be passive. pic.twitter.com/TB7IjMpoYs
Not about the flag, military
The team also made clear that the protest had nothing to do with the flag, the military or patriotism.
“To be clear — we were not protesting the flag, the anthem, or the men and women who wear the uniform,” the statement continued. “The timing of this action is mean to highlight that the presence, power and oppression of racism remains inconsistent with the unity and freedoms of what it means to be an American.”
Kaepernick’s message, but no Kaepernick
It’s a message that Colin Kaepernick repeatedly issued as he protested police brutality and social injustice during the national anthem as the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. The message cost Kaepernick his job as an NFL quarterback as the league bowed to outside pressure that misrepresented the protest as anti-military and anti-American.
Kaepernick remains without a job as the NFL has changed its stance to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement amid a shift in public sentiment.
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