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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Column: National-anthem gestures from white NFL players go well beyond football

<div dir="ltr">Seahawks center Justin Britt and cornerback Jeremy Lane stand near defensive end Michael Bennett as Bennett sits on the bench during the national anthem Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, in Seattle. (Scott Eklund / AP)</div>
Seahawks center Justin Britt and cornerback Jeremy Lane stand near defensive end Michael Bennett as Bennett sits on the bench during the national anthem Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, in Seattle. (Scott Eklund / AP)

Former scientist and founding father Benjamin Franklin once said the following: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

Wow. That’s a pretty deep quote if I do say so myself, especially coming from a guy who also once wrote a paper called “Fart Proudly,” which explains the importance of understanding bodily functions.

Sorry Ben, but you can keep your opinions on flatulence to yourself.

All jokes aside, Franklin’s quote on unity is just as relevant today as it was over 200 years ago.

Race relations in the United States are growing tenser by the day, with incidents such as the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week becoming more and more of a regularity.

Evidence of inconsistency and unfair treatment towards African Americans in the criminal justice system has continued to mount as well.

While black athletes have taken a stand against such oppression through various methods of protest, many white athletes have failed to step up to the plate and express similar sentiments of displeasure.

However, NFL players Chris Long and Justin Britt took a step in the right direction this past weekend.

Long, a defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles, wrapped his arm around fellow teammate Malcolm Jenkins during the national anthem of a preseason game while Jenkins stood with his right fist in the air.

Britt, a center for the Seattle Seahawks, similarly placed his hand on teammate Michael Bennett’s shoulder while Bennett sat on the bench during the national anthem of another preseason game.

While Long and Britt’s actions may seem small, the symbolism behind them is what really matters: a white man standing in unity with a black man.

“It was very touching for me,” Bennett said after the game about his teammate’s gesture. “A very emotional moment to have that kind of solidarity from someone like Justin Britt.”

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Britt told reporters he was trying to show support for Bennett, who is one of many players to have received criticism for sitting or kneeling during the national anthem.

Long, a veteran entering his 10th season in the NFL, echoed a similar message.

“I think it’s a good time for people that look like me to be there for people that are fighting for equality,” he said. “Malcolm is a leader and I’m here to show support as a white athlete.”

If Benjamin Franklin were still here today, he’d undoubtedly be proud.

Kudos to you, Chris Long and Justin Britt.

For racial tension to improve in the United States, it can’t just be the oppressed who are speaking out. People of all ethnicities, colors and backgrounds need to be at the forefront of such a movement.

While a lot of progress still needs to be made, Long and Britt set a great example moving forward on how to make a difference in the fight for equality. And they deserve props for that.

You can follow Dylan Dixon on Twitter @dylanrdixon, and you can contact him at ddixon@alligator.org.

Seahawks center Justin Britt and cornerback Jeremy Lane stand near defensive end Michael Bennett as Bennett sits on the bench during the national anthem Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, in Seattle. (Scott Eklund / AP)
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