No white NFL player has knelt in protest during the national anthem, and it would be a tough decision for one to become the first.
It started with Colin Kaepernick, then Eric Reid, then Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane.
It continued with Brandon Marshall, who took a knee before the season opener, just like four Dolphins did Sept. 11.
Robert Quinn and Marcus Peters have raised fists, as have Devin McCourty and Martellus Bennett.
All have been bold. All have been brave. And perhaps most notably — all have been black.
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“You need a white guy to join the fight. The white guy is super important to the fight,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said. “For people to really see social injustices, there must be someone from the other side of the race who recognizes the problem, because a lot of times if just one race says there’s a problem, nobody is realistic about it.”
There have been white professional athletes — such as Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe — who have committed to protesting during the national anthem. And there have been white male high-school athletes — such as those from the Garfield football team — who have done the same.
But a month after Kaepernick’s dissent captured the nation’s attention, we are yet to see a white NFL player make a similar gesture as “The Star Spangled Banner” plays.
So will we? And what kind of impact would that have on the movement?
“If somebody like, say, Aaron Rodgers got behind us, I think it would touch home for a lot more people,” said Seahawks defensive lineman Cliff Avril, whose team has chosen to lock arms while standing during the anthem. “At the same time, I see why they probably wouldn’t, because they don’t know what we’re going through. That’s one of those situations where it’s unfortunate.”
Generally speaking, Caucasians have had wildly different reactions to the national-anthem protests than African Americans have. A recent YouGov poll reported that 72 percent of blacks in this country support Colin Kaepernick’s demonstrations while 69 percent of whites disapprove. And according to a poll by E-Poll Marketing Research, 37 percent of white Americans dislike Kaepernick “a lot” vs. 2 percent of black Americans who feel the same way.
Whether you agree with the manner in which these protests are conducted, the numbers above prove that a conversation is necessary. When poll results are that lopsided, it’s clear large populations from each race live in different worlds.
This is a reality Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka has become more aware of during his time in Seattle. He said stories about Richard Sherman growing up in Compton, or Kevin Pierre-Louis facing discrimination in Connecticut opened his eyes to an uglier side of America.
Since then, Hauschka has become one of the more vocal Seahawks in regards to social issues and recently called upon whites to be more active in an Instagram post. But building the confidence to speak out like that? That took some time.
“I think a lot of white people are uncomfortable talking about it,” Hauschka said. “I don’t want to speak for all white people, but I know for myself, I’m uncomfortable about the subject. There’s a lot of racial tension that goes way back, and I don’t know what it’s like to be black in this country. I don’t know how any white person could.”
That’s a factor some might not consider when it comes to the absence of white NFL protesters. It’s not as simple as white players fearing public backlash or failing to sympathize with their black teammates — it’s that they may not think it’s their fight.
But anti-racism activist and writer Tim Wise — a white man — suggests they should make it their fight. He said that, at the very least, a white player dissenting would prevent the public from dismissing police brutality as an issue only black people care about.
He also noted that there is a history of whites standing on the sideline during periods of oppression in this country. So could now be the time to kneel on the sideline instead?
“I think it would have a great impact,” Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said. “It would get a different part of the population to open their eyes and ears.”
Nobody, black or white, should feel compelled to do something they don’t think is right. The reason these anthem protests have been so divisive is because each side has a legitimate argument.
But if a white player in the NFL were to take a knee, it would change the conversation. And it would likely spawn others in the league to follow suit.
So as Kaepernick comes to Seattle on Sunday, you can’t help but wonder: Is his movement plateauing, or is it just getting started?