These Are the NFL Players Planning to Take a Knee This Season

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has waded into the debate over whether NFL players should kneel during the national anthem and made it clear he would join teammates and colleagues taking a knee before games.

The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner made his stance clear on Instagram over the weekend, when he replied to a comment from a fan on Instagram indicating he "absolutely will" stand for the anthem.

Mayfield elaborated on his thoughts in a separate post.

"Everybody so upset about my comment doesn't understand the reasoning behind kneeling in the first place [...] [Former NFL player and Green Beret] Nate [Boyer] and Kap [former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick] came to an agreement that kneeling was the most respectful way to support our military while also standing up for equality," he wrote.

"I have the utmost respect for our military, cops, and people that serve our country.

"It's about equality and everybody being treated the same because we are all human. It's been ignored for too long and that is my fault as well for not becoming more educated and staying silent.

"If I lose fans, that's okay. I've always spoken my mind. And that's from the heart."

Since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the anthem to protests against police brutality and racial inequality, the gesture has split public opinion and developed into a thorny political issue.

Boyer, who served for six years on multiple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, has repeatedly made clear that the kneeling during the anthem is neither unpatriotic nor offensive.

The former Texas long snapper praised Mayfield's comments over the weekend, indicating the Browns quarterback had just won a new fan.

Mayfield is unlikely to be the only player taking a knee in the upcoming season. Last week, Washington Redskins veteran running back Adrian Peterson said he would "no doubt" kneel during the national anthem and that a large number of players planned to join the demonstration.

"Just four years ago, you're seeing [Colin] Kaepernick taking a knee, and now we're all getting ready to take a knee together going into this season, without a doubt," he told the Houston Chronicle.

"We've got to put the effort in as a group collectively. Are they going to try to punish us all? If not, playing football is going to help us save lives and change things, then that's what it needs to be."

Chicago Bears safety Jordan Lucas plans to join Peterson, and Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods also expects protests to be widespread.

"I think you'll be able to see players speak up in what they believe in and have the confidence that their team is able to back them," he told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt made his position clear on Twitter over the weekend.

"Don't speak for me," he wrote in response to a fan who said he was "pretty sure" the 31-year-old would not kneel.

"If you still think it's about disrespecting the flag or our military, you clearly haven't been listening."

Texans head coach Bill O'Brien also vocally backed the players' right to protest and indicated he will join the demonstrations.

"Yeah, I'll take a knee—I'm all for it," O'Brien told the Houston Chronicle on Friday.

"The players have a right to protest, a right to be heard, and a right to be who they are. They're not taking a knee because they're against our flag. They're taking a knee because they haven't been treated equally in this country for over 400 years."

Conversely, President Donald Trump has staunchly opposed the protests suggesting players kneeling disrespect both the anthem and the flags and three years ago urged team owners to "fire those sons of b*****s."

In 2018, without consulting the NFL Players Association, the NFL approved a new policy that would require all players to stand during the national anthem or be given the option to stay in the locker room.

In the wake of the nationwide protests following George Floyd's death, however, the league has drastically changed its stance. Earlier this month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell condemned racism and acknowledged the league had not done enough to heed black players' calls for justice.

While Goodell did not address Kaepernick nor the anthem issue directly, he backed players to "protest peacefully," which was interpreted as a green light for players to kneel during the anthem.

Trump rebuked Goodell for the statement, suggesting the commissioner was encouraging players to kneel during the anthem.

On Saturday, Trump doubled down on his stance, suggesting he would no longer watch the NFL and the U.S. soccer teams if players were to be allowed to kneel.

"I won't be watching much any more," he tweeted in response to a report that congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) had proposed to introduce a bill that could force U.S. Soccer players to stand during the national anthem just days after the U.S. Soccer Federation repealed the requirement.

In a follow up tweet, Trump added: "And it looks like the NFL is heading in that direction also, but not with me watching."

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Andy Lyons/Getty
These Are the NFL Players Planning to Take a Knee This Season | Sports