Although they’ve made clear they aren’t staging a protest, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack became the latest set of NFL teammates to show solidarity during the playing of the national anthem on Saturday.
Ahead of the Raiders’ preseason game against the Rams, Carr, who is white, placed his right hand on the shoulder of Mack, who is black. The display of camraderie follows a precedent set by the Eagles’ Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins and the Seahawks’ Justin Britt and Michael Bennett.
“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 clarified that neither man was protesting in this instance, but that they wanted to help set an example.
“What we wanted to do was show all the kids that look up to me, look up to him, that white kids, blue kids, brown kids, blue, green, doesn't matter, can all be loving to each other," Carr said. "And that's what me and Khalil are -- we're best friends and we love one another.”
The national discourse surrounding race has been magnified in wake of violent white supremacist activity in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend. The conversation has been at the forefront of the NFL’s preseason as well, with Colin Kaepernick remaining unsigned after leading a wave of players protesting during the National Anthem last season.
Black players like Jenkins and Bennett who also protest during the anthem have received public support from white teammates like Long and Britt. Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch has remained seated during the playing of the anthem.
Mack echoed Carr’s thoughts and explained why he wasn’t protesting, but was happy to use the NFL’s stage to send a message.
“To show [that] different races can get along, white, black, whatever you are, get along and be friends and ... just show unity," Mack said. "Show togetherness. It's discussed a lot. It's one of the things I feel passionately about, but I just don't like the attention, the attention that comes with it. But at the same time, just using my platform for positivity is what's important for me.”