Three Kansas City Chiefs linebackers have declined to stand for the anthem before Monday Night Football, after ESPN reversed a previous decision not to air the anthem in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre.
The gesture of protest came before the Chiefs played the Washington Redskins on Monday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, a day after the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Although ESPN and other networks did air pre-game national anthems last week in light of fan interest in player protests, the network had previously said in a statement that it did not plan to show the anthem on Monday.
That decision was quickly reversed following the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival that left 59 dead and 527 injured.
Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters was the only player shown sitting for the Star-Spangled Banner on ESPN’s broadcast. The network had planned not to air the anthem but reversed course in the wake of the shooting massacre that left 59 dead in Las Vegas
Two other Chiefs players not show on the broadcast did not stand, Chiefs linebackers Justin Houston (left) and Ukeme Eligwe (right). Houston hunched with his back to the flag and his head on the bench in an apparent posture of prayer, while Eligwe sat casually on the bench
A fan holds a Praying for Vegas sign before the game between the Chiefs and the Redskins
With the flag over the stadium lowered to half mast in mourning of the victims, several Chiefs players did not stand for the anthem.
Cornerback Marcus Peters was shown sitting for the Star-Spangled Banner on the television broadcast.
Two other players not show on the broadcast did not stand, Chiefs linebackers Justin Houston and Ukeme Eligwe.
Houston hunched with his back to the flag and his head on the bench in an apparent posture of prayer, while Eligwe sat casually on the bench as the anthem played.
All of the Redskins players remained standing for the anthem. Some placed their right hands on their hearts and their left hands on a teammate’s shoulder, while others interlocked arms.
The flag at Arrowhead Stadium was at half-staff in honor of the Las Vegas victims
Washington Redskins link arms during the playing of the national anthem on Monday
All of the Redskins players stood for the anthem, with some linking arms
A Kansas City Chiefs fan holds up a sign to support the victims of the shooting in Las Vegas
The significance of the flag flying at half-staff was not lost on Chiefs fans, one of whom raised a sign reading ‘Praying 4 Vegas – take a knee for the right reason’.
NFL players began protesting what they say is police brutality and racial injustice in 2016.
The demonstrations gained added attention after President Donald Trump implored NFL owners last month to ‘fire’ anyone who took a knee during the national anthem.
The league has grappled with a polarized response to the protests from its fan base, some of whom call the protests an insult to national symbols.
The NFL saw its ratings for Sunday Night Football decline a further five percent yesterday from the week prior.
Dozens of players knelt or otherwise protested during the anthem in Week Four of play.
Kansas City law enforcement officers pose for a photo before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium