Cincinnati Bengals running back Rodney Anderson said he plans to kneel when the national anthem is played at games this season.
The 2019 sixth-round draft pick hopes to make an impact on the field in his second season after his rookie campaign was wiped out by an ACL tear in the preseason finale. However, he also wants to stand up for racial injustice and expects he will be among many kneeling for the anthem.
“I'll definitely be kneeling,” Anderson said. “I feel like there's a big issue and that issue is unarmed Black people being killed by law enforcement officers unjustly. I am 100% behind the kneeling movement.”
The former Oklahoma standout said he feels comfortable kneeling for the national anthem and would be surprised if nobody else does.
“I don't want to call it for anybody else, but you know, with all the things that have come to light, it would be hard to think that not a lot of people would be,” Anderson said.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drew attention in August 2016 when he knelt during the national anthem ahead of a preseason game to protest police brutality and racial injustice. Others began following suit, and the following season, President Donald Trump called on league owners to release anyone who took part in the movement. No Bengals players knelt that season, and in 2018, the NFL announced a policy that banned kneeling during the national anthem.
Amid nationwide protests over the recent death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reversed course on the kneeling ban June 5, saying in a 90-second video statement released on social media that the league was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier." Goodell did not mention Kaepernick by name but said the NFL will "encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest."
Anderson said that although he wishes the league would have understood or at least heard players the first time, “better late than never.” He also said he has never spoken with Bengals ownership about the topic of kneeling or racial injustice but hopes the organization will “stand by what they say.”
The Bengals were among the last teams in the league to address the events sparking the national protests, first releasing a statement June 6 to the team website. Through Bengals senior writer Geoff Hobson, the Bengals declared they had “made a commitment to listening and to action, including a pledge of $250,000 to community initiatives to be selected by players, coaches and staff together.”
Bengals coaches then addressed the issue with players during Zoom meetings, and Anderson said he felt heard, and appreciated the coaches’ support.
“We were split into some small groups over Zoom meetings, and there were coaches in each group and obviously the players got a chance to, you know, get what we wanted to say off of our chest and open it up for discussion,” Anderson said. “I feel like that was really constructive. As far as the coaches are concerned, I feel like they're with us.”
On June 10, the Bengals posted on social media the first comments by an individual in the organization.
“We appreciate our players’ honesty and strength, being vulnerable and sharing their experiences with each other and our coaches,” executive vice president Katie Blackburn said in the statement. “We look forward to continuing to listen and to working together as one connected team to better our society.”