Is Marshawn Lynch picking up where Colin Kaepernick left off?
The Raiders running back remained seated on a cooler while eating a banana as his teammates and coaches stood during the national anthem prior to the team's Saturday night preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. Lynch's decision came in the wake of a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. earlier in the day where three people, including two police officers, were killed.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio told reporters after the game he was surprised by Lynch's decision, and had a conversation with the veteran running back who had left the locker room before reporters were able to speak with him.
"He said, 'This is something I have done for 11 years. It's not a form of anything other than me being myself,' " Del Rio said. "I said, 'So you understand how I feel, I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem. But I respect you as a man and you can do your thing.'
"So, it's a non-issue for me," Del Rio added, noting that he didn't think it would become a big distraction.
Pro Football Talk found a video on YouTube that was filmed before a November 13, 2011 game between the Ravens and the Seahawks. Lynch, then on Seattle's roster, is clearly seen standing during the national anthem.
Raiders quarterback E.J. Manuel told ESPN that Lynch's decision to sit during the anthem was "more of a personal thing" for him.
Lynch didn't play last season during Kaepernick's polarizing decision to kneel during the national anthem. But last September, Lynch did indicate he supported the former 49ers quarterback's form of protest.
"With what's going on, I'd rather see him take a knee than stand up, put his hands up and get murdered," Lynch told ESPN's Sheil Kapadia. "So my take on it is [things have] to start somewhere, and if that was the starting point, I just hope people open up their eyes to see that there's really a problem going on, and something needs to be done for it to stop."
"And if you're really not racist then you won't see what he's doing as a threat to America, but just addressing a problem that we have," Lynch added.
Kaepernick has remained a free agent throughout the offseason. The Baltimore Ravens have shown some interest in signing the 29-year-old, but ESPN reported that head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome have met resistance from owner Steve Bisciotti. Newsome denied the report last week, noting in a statement the team is going through a process and hasn't made a final decision.
"Steve Bisciotti has not told us we cannot sign Colin Kaepernick, nor has he blocked the move," Newsome said. "Whoever is making these claims is wrong."
Back in March, ESPN's statistical analysis website FiveThirtyEight looked at Kaepernick's numbers, and came to the conclusion his statistics, playoff experience, and potential upside should have earned him a spot on someone's roster, especially as a backup.
"Kaepernick's current employment status looks less like a natural result of the supposed NFL meritocracy and more like something unusual is going on (even by the standards of an unusually complex situation)," Kyle Wagner and Neil Paine outlined. "His play is good enough to have attracted interest from teams by now. That it hasn't suggests that he's being punished on at least some level for his political outspokenness."