Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch has not explained publicly why he sat out the national anthem before Saturday night’s game. But he did explain himself privately to Raiders coach Jack Del Rio — who then gave a misleading account of Lynch’s past actions to reporters.
“He said, ‘This is something I have done for 11 years. It’s not a form of anything other than me being myself,’” Del Rio said Lynch told him.
PFT tracked down a video of the national anthem before the November 13, 2011 Ravens-Seahawks game in Seattle, and that video clearly shows Lynch standing for the anthem. We have not been able to find any photos or videos showing Lynch sitting out the anthem at any time in the 11 years since he entered the NFL, until Saturday night.
It’s possible that Lynch has skipped the anthem in some settings, but Del Rio’s statement made it sound like Lynch has consistently sat out the anthem throughout his career. He hasn’t.
Last year, when Colin Kaepernick‘s anthem protest sparked a national controversy, Lynch was out of the NFL and therefore wasn’t in position to either sit, stand, or lock arms with teammates, as Lynch’s former team did. But when Lynch was asked about it, he gave absolutely no indication that he had ever sat out an anthem himself — even as he said he supported Kaepernick.
“With what’s going on, I’d rather see him take a knee than stand up, put his hands up and get murdered, so I mean, my take on it is, [expletive] we’ve got to start somewhere, and if that was the start, I just hope people open up their eyes to see that there’s really a problem going on, and something needs to be done for it to stop. If you’re really not racist then you won’t see what he’s doing as a threat to America.” Lynch said in September of 2016.
Lynch’s comments specifically referred to Kaepernick’s protest as “the start” of something — an odd phrasing, if Lynch himself had been doing the same thing for a decade.
Without hearing from Lynch, it’s impossible to say for sure what he intended to say by sitting out the anthem, or what he meant when he explained himself to his coach afterward. But what Del Rio said was misleading at best, and outright false at worst.