The NFL regular season hasn’t even started yet but Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch may already be stirring the pot. The recently un-retired Lynch returned to the NFL from a one-year hiatus after playing for several seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, returning to the Raiders and re-embracing his bad boy/rebel image. Lynch turned it up another notch this past weekend when he sat during the national anthem prior to the team’s 20-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 12. Multiple photographs showed Lynch sitting atop a cooler eating a banana while the anthem was performed.

Lynch sitting out the opening anthem wasn’t a protest similar to the 2016 season-long campaign that Colin Kaepernick waged last season.   Lynch explained to coaches that he’s routinely sat during anthems over the course of his 11-year career for no reasons in particular. Kaepernick, however, cited the deaths of numerous unarmed Black motorists as his reason for kneeling, causing critics everywhere to voice their displeasure. Kaepernick sat out anthems last year to protest and it caused controversy. Lynch claims he’s been sitting out anthems for no direct reasons but, so far, he hasn’t even received a complaint or even notice.

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch (24) stands on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Kaepernick still remains unemployed with no clear justification other then his political beliefs. It remains to be seen what will happen with Lynch. For a habit he’s claimed to have practiced in a decade-plus-long career, the ball of attention is about to get rolling if he continues to sit. The 31-year-old Lynch has enamored himself to fans with his relaxed attitude, so not standing for the national anthem might be an easier chew for critics.

But if Lynch doesn’t feel the same heat that Kaepernick endured then that says something a little bit bigger than football. If it’s more acceptable for Lynch to sit out the anthem simply because he feels like it while Kaepernick withstood a media blitzkrieg over his racial awareness then society needs to reorganize its priorities. It’s unlikely Lynch will endure the same Kaepernick-like backlash for his non participation in the anthem. However, the public reaction that’s bound to come from this — should it continue to be routine — will be interesting.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO