The Seattle Seahawks linked arms during the national anthem as a way of both honoring the flag and continuing the conversation that was started by Colin Kaepernick’s protest in preseason.
Kaepernick sat during the first three preseason games and kneeled on the ground in the fourth as a way to protest racial injustices in the United States. He was joined in the protest by teammate Eric Reid in the preseason finale and by Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane, who sat on the bench during the national anthem in a different preseason game.
While there were initial reports that the entire Seahawks team would take a knee during the national anthem, Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin announced and explained the decision to instead link arms with a video on Twitter.
"We are a team comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds, and as a team we have decided to stand and interlock arms in unity," Baldwin said in the video. "We honor those who have fought for the freedom we cherish, and we stand to ensure the riches of freedom and the security of justice for all people. Progress can and will be made only if we stand together."
Earlier in the week, Baldwin suggested that an expansion of Kaepernick’s protest could be on the way, telling the Seattle Times that the "locker room discussed" a possible protest and he wanted to "get all of [his] ducks in a row" before officially deciding to join Lane.
The locker room discussion initially led to a decision to collectively kneel during the national anthem, but players "close with the military" objected to the idea and linking arms became the new plan, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
"My grandfather being in the military, it hit home for me as well, and specifically it’s the veterans," Baldwin told the Seattle Times of Kaepernick’s protest. "That’s more heartening to me than anything is the veterans that have reached out and said that’s what they fought for, that’s what they sacrificed their lives for, is to give people back home under the flag, under this country, the opportunity to stand up or sit for what they believe in."
When Lane sat during the preseason, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said he had no problem with his players taking a stand.
"He’s pretty clear on what he did and what he was trying to express and I think it is very simple and so we’ll leave that up to him," Carroll said. "But he understands the responsibility of it, I think, and shouldering it."
Earlier in the day, the Kansas City Chiefs locked arms before their game against the San Diego Chargers in an act they called "a sign of solidarity." Cornerback Marcus Peters, who had previously spoken out in support of Kaepernick, also raised his fist.