Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat through most of the U.S. national anthem but rose for the Mexican anthem before a match against the New England Patriots at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, earning new ire from superpatriots in the North and respect from his fans in the South and Southwest.
Lynch has studiously refused to stand during the national anthem throughout his career, not so much “taking a knee” like Colin Kaepernick and innumerable other players in the National Football League but taking “two cheeks” and remaining sitting through the Star-Spangled Banner
“I talked to Marshawn to make sure we’re on the same page and he said, ‘This is something I’ve done for 11 years. It’s not a form of anything other than me being myself,’” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio told the Arizona Republic in August. “I said, ‘Just so you understand how I feel — I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem, but I’m going to respect you as a man, you do your thing, OK, and we’ll do ours.’ So, it’s a non-issue for me.”
Last year, Lynch told Conan O'Brien that he supported Kaepernick's decision to silently protest police terror by kneeling during the national anthem.
“I’d rather see him take a knee than stand up, put his hands up, and get murdered,” Lynch said.
In a move sure to win further adoration from Mexican-Americans in the so-called “Raiders Nation” of football fanatics, as well as a growing base of chilango fans in Mexico City, Lynch also showed off his custom-made Mexican flag-themed Nike cleats on Twitter before the game.
While less than 1 percent of NFL players are Latino, the sport is enormously popular among youth and high-schoolers in the majority-Mexican U.S. southwest – many of whom adorn themselves with the trademark black and silver colors of the Raiders.
In 1984, the Raiders – then based in Los Angeles, California – won a massive victory over the Washington Redskins under the leadership of former quarterback and coach Tom Flores, the son of Central Valley field workers from Chihuahua, Mexico.
Among his top proteges was Heisman Trophy winner and Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett, a Chicano role model who remains the only Latino player to ever be named Super Bowl MVP.
The Raiders have long enjoyed the loyalty of their multiethnic working-class fanbases in Oakland and Los Angeles, where the team played from 1982 to 1994. The team's underdog status and aggressive style of play, as well as their association with West Coast rap groups like N.W.A., soon gave birth to the name “Raiders Nation” in reference to a hardcore fanbase spanning L.A. to the Bay – and now as far as Mexico City.