Three Kansas City Chief players did not participate in the national anthem at a Monday evening game against the Washington Redskins despite a nation in mourning over the recent Las Vegas massacre—the worst shooting in U.S. history.
Marcus Peters and Ukeme Eligwe sat on the bench, while Justin Houston kneeled away from the center of the field in prayer position as the anthem played. Other players stood with their hands over their hearts or locked arms in unity, or did a combination of both, Daily Mail reported.
— Cernovich Media (@CernovichNews) October 3, 2017
Only cornerback Marcus Peters was shown in the televised broadcast sitting on the bench. ESPN decided to broadcast the national anthem portion of the pre-game after earlier stating they would not. Viewer ratings have been dropping steadily in the last year, with many pointing to the increase in pre-game politics as the reason.
ESPN decided to air the national anthem after the Las Vegas massacre, when a gunman killed 59 people and injured 527 at a country music festival on Oct. 1. Stephen Paddock sprayed bullets on attendees of the outdoor festival from the 32nd floor of a casino as musicians performed on stage.
Fans and journalists—even some who had previously supported the protests—expressed displeasure at NFL players’ decision to continue to protest the anthem and the American flag after such an event.
“Man, can’t get behind Marcus Peters and Ukeme Eligwe sitting tonight. No sir. Not tonight,” wrote Jeff Rosen, sports editor for The Kansas City Star, via Twitter.
Kirk Cousins when the Kansas City fans finish the national anthem with "and the home of the Chiefs"… pic.twitter.com/VM2sgb6u0V
— Jake Russell (@_JakeRussell) October 3, 2017
The flag was flying at half-staff to commemorate the Las Vegas massacre victims. Despite the recent events, Chiefs fans still replaced the last word of the national anthem, “brave” by shouting “Chiefs” from the stands, making the song end with “and the home of the Chiefs.” Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins could be seen cringing at the gesture, USA Today reported.
Peters was the first player to protest the anthem during the regular season this year, following in currently-unemployed Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps.
“I was just stating how I’m black, and I love being black, [and] I’m supporting Colin in what he’s doing as far as raising awareness with the justice system,” said Peters after raising a fist—a move that has been associated with Black Power groups—during the anthem last year. “But I didn’t mean anything [bad] by it,” he added.
The Chiefs went on to beat the Washington Redskins. They now have four wins and no losses, and are one of the top teams this season right now.