August 20, 2017 - 12:28 am
Updated August 20, 2017 - 12:45 am
OAKLAND, Calif. — Derek Carr is a budding star NFL quarterback. Khalil Mack is the reigning Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year. Together, their statures afford them a large following.
On Saturday night, they hoped to lead.
Carr placed his right hand atop the back-neck area of Mack’s jersey throughout the national anthem before the Raiders’ 24-21 exhibition loss to the Los Angeles Rams. This was no accident, Carr said afterward. The gesture was intended as a message of solidarity amid racial tension in the U.S.
“Any kid, any family, any adult that follows us or looks up to us, we knew their eyes would be on us,” Carr said. “We wanted to show them that it’s OK for a white kid and a black kid who come from two different neighborhoods to grow up and love one another and be best friends.”
Carr, 26, said the two are “not protesting” the anthem.
“We’re not doing anything like that,” he said. “What we wanted to do is show all the kids that look up to me, that look up to him that white kids, black kids, brown kids — blue, green; it doesn’t matter — can all be loving to each other. That’s what me and Khalil are. We’re best friends, and we love one another. The only reason we did that was to unify people and unify the people that look up to us.
“Obviously, we see what’s going on in the world. And obviously, everybody pays attention to the national anthem nowadays. We just said, ‘This is the best time to do it while still honoring our country,’ because I love our country more than anything. We’re free to live here and play this game. But we’re also free to show each other that we love one another. That’s the only message we were trying to send.”
There were other demonstrations during Saturday’s anthem.
Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing similarly placed his right hand on fullback Jamize Olawale’s jersey. Outside linebacker Bruce Irvin raised a fist with his right hand. For the second straight week, running back Marshawn Lynch sat on the sideline behind teammates who stood.
Similar scenes have arisen on other NFL sidelines.
On Thursday in Philadelphia, Eagles defensive end Chris Long placed his hand on the back of cornerback Malcolm Jenkins’ jersey, as Jenkins raised a right fist in the air during the anthem. Long is a native of Charlottesville, Virginia, a city that saw violence erupt in its streets between white supremacists and counter-protesters a week ago.
On Friday in Seattle, Seahawks center Justin Britt placed his hand on defensive end Michael Bennett’s shoulder, as Bennett sat on the sideline bench during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Carr and Mack saw their opportunity Saturday. The use of the anthem to promote racial equality arose in the Bay Area last August when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat and then knelt when it was performed.
Politics are a topic of conversation in many workplaces.
An NFL locker room is no different.
“It comes up, really, when something in the world happens,” Carr said. “Obviously, we get the news when we get in the locker room; we see our phones or something like that. It’s not something that we go around and only talk about, but it is something that comes up. And at the same time, I’m not a politician. I’m not trying to be a spokesperson or anything like that.
“All I’m trying to show these kids is I love everybody. And all Khalil was trying to do is show these kids that he loves everybody as well.”
Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.