Adrian Peterson “without a doubt” will be taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, and he expects to be joined by several NFL players.
The Washington Redskins running back made his comments to the Houston Chronicle on Friday in discussing Drew Brees‘ comments last week that players kneeling during the anthem were “disrespecting the flag.” The New Orleans Saints quarterback later apologized and stood by his apology on Friday night after President Donald Trump wrote that Brees should not have changed his stance.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first to protest racial injustice in the United States by kneeling during the anthem. After being released by the 49ers in 2017, he has gone unsigned and reached a settlement with the NFL last year after filing a grievance alleging collusion by teams against him signing a contract because of his protest.
The league adopted a policy in 2018 that required players to stand for the anthem but allowed them to stay in the locker room during it, only to pull the policy back after an agreement with the NFL Players Association. Last season only a handful of players knelt during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, but now, following national protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, it appears more players will be taking a knee, according to Peterson.
“Just four years ago, you’re seeing Kaepernick taking a knee, and now we’re all getting ready to take a knee together going into this season, without a doubt,” Peterson told the Chronicle from his gym in Houston.
Asked by the newspaper again if he planned to take a knee, he said: “Yeah, without a doubt, without a doubt.”
Peterson said that if players protest in large numbers it will be hard for them to be targeted for backlash from the league.
“We’ve got to put the effort in as a group collectively. Are they going to try to punish us all? If not, playing football is going to help us save lives and change things, then that’s what it needs to be,” he told the newspaper.
Recent comments from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell may indicate that players kneeling during the anthem this season won’t face the backlash that Kaepernick and others did.
On Friday, Goodell admitted in a video that the league has erred in how it has dealt with NFL player protests of police brutality and systemic racism over the past few years. Goodell’s response came after more than a dozen star players released their own video, asking the NFL to condemn racism, admit wrong in previous attempts to silence peaceful protests and to affirm that black lives matter.
“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said in the video. “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all players to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe that black lives matter.”