Multiple players from the Broncos and the Titans knelt during the singing of the national anthem prior to Monday’s season-opening game in Denver.
It appeared as though 18 Denver players participated in the peaceful protest, with their teammates such as quarterback Drew Lock standing beside them with a hand on their shoulder. Broncos receiver Diontae Spencer stood with a raised first. The number of Tennessee players was slightly smaller.
Players throughout the league have demonstrated during the anthem during opening weekend, continuing a gesture begun four years ago by Colin Kaepernick. Some teams opted to stay in the locker room during the anthem, while others have come to the sidelines and allowed players to decide how they would like to handle the situation.
Kneeling has become closely associated with the Black Lives Matter movement that aims to call attention to social injustice and, in particular, instances of police brutality.
The demonstrations have consistently drawn the ire of President Donald Trump, who tweeted Monday, “Players take knee, raise fist, stay in locker room, during National Anthem”. @FoxNews No thanks, tell them to “protest” some other time!”
Prior to that, the Broncos (on the 30-yard line) and Titans (on the goal line) lined up while “Lift Every Voice and Sing” played in the stadium.
The Broncos issued a statement, saying they respect everyone’s right to advocate for positive change.
“How a player, coach, staff member or fan chooses to express themselves during the national anthem is a personal decision," the team said. "Our entire organization has the deepest appreciation and gratitude for the flag, the military and the first-responders who keep us safe. We also understand the importance of bringing awareness to – and ending – police brutality, systemic racism and injustices toward the Black community.
“Together with the players, we will continue to listen, grow and work to inspire change. We are proud of the players and stand with them in the fight for equality.”
Empower Field at Mile High was largely empty, though several hundred spectators were allowed into the lower bowl under the direction of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to test stadium COVID-19 protocols. The group comprised players and employee friends and family members.