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Many Ravens kneel during national anthem before opener in ‘demonstration for justice and equality for all Americans’

Several Ravens players took a knee or sat on the bench during the playing of the national anthem in a “demonstration for justice and equality for all Americans” before the team’s 38-6 season-opening win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey and outside linebacker Matthew Judon took a knee during the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” otherwise known as the Black national anthem, which was played before “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

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As part of initiatives to show its support for the fight against social injustice and racial inequality, the NFL announced that it would be playing “Lift Every Voice and Sing" before “The Star-Spangled Banner” for its Week 1 games.

“We respect and support our players' right to protest peacefully,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said in a news release shortly after kickoff. "This was a demonstration for justice and equality for all Americans. These are core values we can all support.

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“This was not a protest against our country, the military or the flag. Our players remain dedicated to uplifting their communities and making America better. They have proven this through substantive action. They are committed to using their platform to drive positive change, and we support their efforts.”

Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale knelt next to veteran defensive end Calais Campbell on the sideline, as did quarterback and reigning league Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson.

“A lot of players on this team are really passionate about the community, about our backgrounds and where we come from,” Campbell said after the game. “I think most of the guys wanted to protest against the injustices in our community. ... This is just an opportunity for us to use this platform to try to affect change in the communities.”

Most of the Browns players stood with their arms locked during the national anthem, but three players, including star defensive end Myles Garrett, knelt. Browns players remained in the locker room for the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said earlier this offseason that he would kneel during the national anthem before changing course Saturday.

“We talked about it, we had discussions and we are all on the same page,” Mayfield told reporters after the game. “We are in this together in showing solidarity to try and unite instead of divide. It does not matter what decision any of our teammates make, that is just what I personally said and that is the way I wanted to say it.”

Before the season began, Commissioner Roger Goodell voiced his support for players who decide to kneel during the playing of the anthem to protest social injustice and police brutality against Black Americans. In conjunction with other NFL stadiums, the words “It Takes All Of Us” and “End Racism” were printed near the goal posts in the end zones at M&T Bank Stadium. Players around the league have also put social justice messages on the backs of their helmets, with many opting to honor the victims of police violence such as Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.

About 25 minutes before kickoff, Ravens players and coaches stood together along the goal line as “Lift Every Voice and Sing” played. Bisciotti, who has been vocal in his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, also stood with the team. After the song ended, the team came together for a brief huddle and returned to its locker room.

Several Ravens wore black warmup T-shirts with the words “Injustice Against One Of Us Is Injustice Against All of Us" emblazoned on the front and “End Racism” on the back.

Six teams — the Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets — remained in the locker room Sunday during the national anthem before kickoff of their 1 p.m. games. Indianapolis coach Frank Reich, a former quarterback at Maryland, knelt during the anthem, the only one on the sideline to do so.

The Minnesota Vikings locked arms in the end zone about a half-hour before their game against Green Bay for the recorded performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” after nine family members of the late George Floyd were recognized on the videoboard from their perch in the upper concourse.

The group included three brothers and one sister of Floyd, the handcuffed Black man who died May 25 about 3 miles from the stadium when a white police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes.

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In Atlanta, the Falcons and Seattle Seahawks wore armbands honoring civil rights leader John Lewis and staged the most striking of the day’s gestures: They watched the opening kickoff sail through the end zone for a touchback, dropped to one knee, and remained there for about 10 seconds before trotting off the field to resume the game.

Lewis, the Georgia Congressman who died in July, was named an honorary captain for the game. The Falcons also wore shirts with his quote: “The Vote is the most powerful, nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society.”

According to a recent poll from The Washington Post, a majority of Americans support professional athletes protesting during the playing of the anthem, with 56% saying it is acceptable to do so and 42% saying it is not appropriate.

During Thursday night’s NFL season opener between the host Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans, Texans players stayed inside their locker room for the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing," as well as “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Only one Chiefs player knelt during the latter.

Afterward, players and coaches from both team locked arms across the field in a show of unity, an act that solicited boos from the limited crowd at Arrowhead Stadium.

Last month, the Ravens called on the country to come together and address racism in law enforcement directly, saying it was time to “accept accountability and acknowledge the ramifications of slavery and racial injustice” in the wake of the Aug. 23 shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The reform proposal was considered one of the most comprehensive advanced by an American sports team.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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