NFL: Players protest across the league in empty stadiums

Sep 13, 2020; Minneapolis, MN, USA; The family of George Floyd is honored before the Green Bay Packers take to the field against the Minnesota Vikings during their football game Sunday, September 13, 2020, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers/Appleton Post-Crescsent-USA TODAY NETWORK

(Reuters) – National Football League players staged pregame protests from coast-to-coast on Sunday, taking a knee during the playing of the U.S. national anthem in mostly empty stadiums, avoiding the embarrassment of having fans boo, which overshadowed the season opener.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were the only team hosting a Week One game allowing fans on Sunday, so there were no repeats of Thursday’s scenes at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium when members of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans were booed during a moment of silence for social justice.

The Jaguars took no chances and like several teams remained in the locker room during the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often called the Black national anthem, and the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

“Our solidarity is stronger than any difference that threatens to divide us,” the Jaguars said in a statement issued prior to kickoff. “We are a united team.

“We understand that not everyone will agree with our position and demonstration, however we hope that all will seek to understand the reason for it. We all want the same thing: equality and justice.”

Their opponents, the Indianapolis Colts, were on the sidelines, however, where head coach Frank Reich stepped forward and knelt during the national anthem as players locked arms behind him.

“Our intent is to bring attention to the issue of systemic racism,” the Colts said in a lengthy statement. “To be clear – we were not protesting the flag, the anthem, or the men and women who wear the uniform.

“The timing of this action is meant 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.”

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