Before the Oakland Raiders took on the Arizona Cardinals for a preseason game on Saturday, Marshawn Lynch appeared to stage a silent protest by sitting on the bench during the national anthem. Especially after what happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, many on social media were quick to assume Lynch’s decision to not stand for the national anthem was in direct response to the white nationalist rally that turned violent.
Lynch, however, reportedly claims he has been sitting on the bench for the national anthem for most of his career. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio told the media as much after the game by citing a conversation he recently had with Lynch about the topic.
“[Lynch] said, ‘This is something I’ve 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’m going to respect you as a man. You do your thing, and we’ll do ours.’ So that’s a non-issue for me.”
Many outlets have since pointed out that Lynch has stood for the national anthem on at least several occasions in the past. Sources who were around Lynch during his time with the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks also told Yahoo! Sports that they can’t remember him ever sitting for the national anthem.
Even though he wasn’t in the NFL last season, Lynch voiced his support for Colin Kaepernick and his national anthem protest during a conversation with Conan O’Brien. “My take on it is shit has to start somewhere,” Lynch said. “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. 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.”