There have been few players in the history of the National Football League, or the entirety of professional sports for that matter, who have been as blatantly unapologetic and unconcerned with his perception than Marshawn Lynch.
The dreadlock-sporting, Skittles-endorsing, defense-devouring Bay Area native marches to the beat of his own drum and couldn’t care less about his public perception. This is the man who celebrated a game-winning touchdown by whipping around in a field cart; who bulldozed his way through defenses then jumped into the end zone while holding his crotch; and who retired by throwing his cleats onto a telephone wire and throwing up the deuces in the middle of the Super Bowl.
And that’s just scratching the surface.
For all of the running back’s laughable, light-hearted endeavors which have made him lovable regardless of which jersey he dons, Lynch is also one of the smartest athletes in the game, both on and off the field.
A Social Welfare major who spotted a GPA of 3.2 at Cal and an Oakland native with an unbreakable bond with his hometown, Lynch isn’t one to remain oblivious to the world outside of football.
Last September, when Colin Kaepernick came under fire for his decision to take a knee during the national anthem, Lynch voiced his support for the quarterback on Conan O’Brien’s show, stating that the controversial decision was neither a threat to the game nor a threat to the country. This past weekend, Lynch backed up his words with action.
As the national anthem bellowed throughout University of Phoenix Stadium prior to the Oakland Raiders’ preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, Lynch remained seated on an orange cooler and casually munched on a banana.
Lynch’s stand, or rather lack thereof, came in wake of the events which transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia. The running back ducked the media following the game, leaving the general public in the dark as to his method behind the madness.
There’s no telling whether or not Lynch’s decision to sit during the anthem was spur-of-the-moment or carefully thought-out, but regardless of the logistics behind his decision, Lynch’s decision to sit rekindled the dying fire which Kaepernick sparked.
The NFL’s 32 owners have made an example out of Kaepernick, and the message is loud and clear: take a stand at your own discretion, but don’t expect to be in uniform when that contract expires.
A majority of players don’t have the opportunity to sign a contract as lucrative as Kaepernick’s 2014 deal, and those who do believe in protesting police brutality aren’t in a position to risk their careers and potential millions.
Lynch, on the other hand, had his “don’t-give-a-damn” attitude on full display. At no point in his playing career has he let the opinions of anyone beside himself dictate his actions, and he sure as hell isn’t going to start now.
In the wake of Charlottesville, it’s clear now more than ever that the racism which has plagued the United States isn’t going to disappear by ushering in a new generation — it’s an issue which will, unfortunately, continue to rear its ugly head for years to come.
Professional sports, not just the NFL, needs someone to continually remind its audience of the injustices which occur outside, and sometimes even inside, stadiums. And who better to do it than the man who’s all about that action.