One of the leading criticisms people use when they oppose NFL players protesting social injustice is to tell them that kneeling accomplishes nothing and if they really want to make change, they will do it through the community. The problem is most people who say that are ignoring the good many of these players ARE doing in their communities.
The one man on the Raiders squad who stands (or sits, as it were) in a place well beyond reproach with regard to community service is Marshawn Lynch. He has remained seated during the playing of the National Anthem pregame since he arrived in Oakland. He cares deeply about social justice, though he is not one to discuss it in the media. He lets his actions speak for him.
This offseason, I profiled some of the many amazing things Marshawn did in his Oakland community just over the offseason break. He and his Family 1st Foundation were extremely busy over the summer including offering free haircuts to kids, having a 3-day kids camp, and running a contest for business entrepreneurs.
Before Lynch arrived, it was Bruce Irvin who was unafraid to speak his mind and join the fight for social change, including last season raising a fist in the air during the anthem. Irvin sat with arms interlocked during the anthem Sunday night in Washington along with his defensive line teammates in response to Donald Trump’s recent comments on the NFL player protests.
The following day he and those same teammates pictured above volunteered at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland.
S/o to my D-Line brothers for not only taking a stand with me on Sunday, but joining me at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital yesterday. Blessed to be in a position to put smiles on the faces of real FIGHTERS. I'll never take these moments and my platform for granted. Big thank you to the doctors, nurses, and staff members for all that you do. #brotherhood #commitmenttoexcellence #raidernation #biggerthanfootball #nfl
Another favorite criticism of these player is that they are just spoiled millionaires. As if it’s inconceivable that they could be using their platforms as sports heroes to help those less fortunate than they are and for a cause that’s much greater than their own. What a concept.
Also, lest you should think their above volunteer work is just a response to any criticisms they received on Sunday, last week Irvin along with Justin Ellis, Cory James, Jihad Ward, and Xavier Woodson-Luster were volunteering at the Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry truck for low-income families in Oakland.
The first word anyone got of who among the Raiders players were to sit or kneel on Sunday was that of the offensive line which is the only all black starting offensive line in the NFL. The veteran of the group is Donald Penn, who spoke with NBC Saturday night about the issue with the words of Trump that brought about the resounding response by the NFL on Sunday.
And here is Penn at a back-to-school backpack giveaway in Oakland on September 6.
Penn also has his own Foundation known as ‘Penn Pals’ which helps inner city youth and low-income youth in Tampa and Los Angeles — where he played his first 7 NFL seasons and where he is from. The Foundation provides education incentives to students in those areas throughout the school year, scholarship opportunities, Thanksgiving, and Christmas assistance.
All along these protests have been to bring awareness to the issues of police brutality, racial profiling, and unequal treatment under the law. These players don’t harbor some overarching hatred for the police as some simple-minded folks would suggest. That’s a cop out (if you will).
Here they are working alongside the Oakland Police Activities League and Oakland Fire Department hosting a Junior Training Camp at Oakland’s Brookfield Elementary School.
Speaking as a veteran, I can say with absolute certainty their protest is not anti-military either. In fact, if you’ll recall, the original protest by Colin Kaepernick was to sit. He received some criticism for that, so he spoke with former NFL long snapper and veteran of Army Special Forces, Nate Boyer and the two of them agreed that kneeling would bring awareness to his cause while not putting across any disrespect. Kaepernick kneeled from then on. And he was joined by various others across the league.
The flag doesn’t represent me or any of my military brothers and sisters. It represents freedom. First and foremost the freedom of speech which includes the right to peacefully protest as laid out in the Constitution. Protecting the constitution is literally in the oath all service members took upon enlistment.
If you think the sacrifices of our brave men and women in the service is lost on these players, you’d be mistaken. Every year during training camp, they invite large groups of active military to attend. And they’re treated with great respect. At this year’s camp, they hosted a Naval Chief Petty Officer at camp for a re-enlistment ceremony.
Each year, as they have done the past ten years, several Raiders alumni take a trip to visit the Yountville Veterans home up the road from their training camp facility in Napa.
These players earned their position in the NFL through hard work. And as Americans they have just as much right to speak their mind on issues that matter to them. Whether that be at the stadium, in uniform, or otherwise.
These Raiders, along with most NFL players walk the talk and use their platforms to impact their communities. Not just in awareness, but in a tangible way.