Racial injustice themes fill empty stadiums

Jason Myers kicked off to start the Seahawks’ season-opener against the Falcons, and the ball sailed through the end zone for a touchback. No one moved a step. Instead, the players all dropped to one knee.

After years of pleading with the NFL to act against systemic racism, they were willing to wait another 10 seconds to make their point.

Teams opening the year in empty stadiums knelt, locked arms, raised fists in protest or stayed off the field entirely for the ‘’Star-Spangled Banner’’ and the Black anthem ‘’Lift Every Voice and Sing’’ on Sunday (Monday in Manila) as the once-reluctant league brought racial injustice to the forefront on the NFL’s first full slate of games.

In Atlanta, the teams wore armbands honoring civil rights leader John Lewis and staged the most striking of the day’s gestures: They barely flinched as the opening kickoff landed beyond the end line, took a knee, and remained there for about 10 seconds before trotting off the field to resume the game.

‘’It’s a start,’’ Falcons running back Todd Gurley said after the game. ‘’Are we going to keep doing this?… You don’t want to make it a one-time thing — just like having a good game, and then the rest of the season you do nothing.’’

Lewis, the Georgia congressman who died in July, was an honorary captain for the game. The Falcons also wore shirts with his quote: ‘’The Vote is the most powerful, nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society.’’

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