(Updated 8/20/2017) It’s not just about Colin Kaepernick anymore. Several Black and White NFL players have been spotted this preseason making their own protests during the playing of the national anthem before games, reflecting shades of Kaepernick’s actions from a season prior.

FILE – In this Sept. 25, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers Blaine Gabbert, right, stands as Eli Harold (58), Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle. What started as a protest against police brutality has mushroomed a year later into a divisive debate over the future of Kaepernick who refused to stand for the national anthem and now faces what his fans see as blackballing for speaking out in a country roiled by racial strife. The once-rising star and Super Bowl quarterback has been unemployed since March, when he opted out of his contract and became a free agent who could sign with any team. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

While a few other Black players declined to stand for the national anthem last season, the difference this summer is that more White players have shown support to their teammates, often standing alongside protesters sitting or taking a knee. Kaepernick’s stance last season basically got him cast out of the league. Will more support from White players temper the negativity over anthem protests? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate this interesting and important question. 

Green: The support from White players this preseason has been heartening, but it remains to be seen how long this will last. Stadiums are hardly packed and cameras are sparse right now. When the regular season starts and media attention increases, will we still see the same support? If so, then yes, the support of White players may make a difference. Maybe some added support from the opposite race will turn Kaepernick into a pioneer of a new age, and his form of protest will continue to spread through the NFL as well as other sports leagues. If the number of White supporting players continues to grow, then critics will have no choice but to flip their opinions around. 

Riley: Support from White players may make the protests more acceptable from a fan standpoint, but surely things will be blown up to another level. Fines and suspensions could become commonplace for protesting players, as owners surely will frown upon potential political statements. Handing out fines and suspensions will undoubtedly halt any additional support and the players’ resolve will be tested. I love the idea of White players supporting the cause, but I’m sure the NFL doesn’t want that. The league and team owners could turn up the heat a notch depending on how big this trend starts to get. 

Green: We know the league is going to have a heart attack over White athletes stepping in, but that’s exactly what we need. We need to see more Whites taking a stance against racial injustice instead of the same story of Blacks protesting inequalities alone, only to be cast out and blackballed for their actions. If the NFL has to start implementing new penalties for sitting out anthems, then that’s a step in the right direction. Where things go from there will be interesting—if it even gets to that point. 

Riley: Kneeling during anthems might not even be the best strategy for players to voice their concerns. Seeing Black and White players carving out their own spaces and making their own stances is great, but it has never moved the needle on anything. Charities, donations and organizational support is what’s needed if players want to get their message across. Once this becomes more mainstream for White players, then the NFL will surely bring the hammer down. The league has cracked down on domestic abuse, substance abuse and player safety in recent seasons. The number of players making protests during the national anthem will probably grow, and the league will address the trend. Fans might grow to accept and even respect the protestors’ actions, but the league will surely make them pay. Unless that money goes to sources that will serve the community and help ease tensions, then it won’t matter which race is protesting during the national anthem.

Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk