Will NFL players keep protesting while competing in London?

© Reinhold Matay
With the NFL bandwagon rolling into London, the Indianapolis Colts face the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium at Sunday.

While the Colts (1-2) and the Jaguars (0-3) both desperately need a win to kick-start their seasons, the main focus on the game might easily be moved to what happens before the event rather than anything the players do during the game.

When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained seated during the national anthem before a pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers in protest at perceived racial injustices in the US, no one could have imagined the impact it would make.

READ MORE: NFL player refuses to stand for US anthem as part of anti-racism protest

Kaepernick’s actions divided opinions, with some people claiming he had the right to protest while others argued he was being unpatriotic.

Sports stars Serena Williams, LeBron James, and Megan Rapinoe have thrown their weight behind the protest, while numerous players across the NFL have supported Kaepernick, including several involved in Sunday’s game.

Colts cornerback Antonio Cromartie knelt during the anthem before his team’s win over the San Diego Chargers last week, while four Jacksonville players – Jared Odrick, Dante Fowler Jr, Telvin Smith and Hayes Pullard – were reported to have given a clenched-fist salute before their defeat against the Baltimore Ravens.

Another Jaguar, Allen Robinson, made a ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ motion as he celebrated a touchdown during the same game.

Black Lives Matter protesters have used the gesture in the US and Robinson told the Guardian he used it to show solidarity with Kaepernick’s protest.

“I think for a lot of guys out here who play professional sports, we’re seeing these things becoming a bigger problem each and every day in the culture,” said Robinson.

“So if we can bring as much awareness as possible to it, I’m happy to see guys using their platform to say something.

“I think no matter what someone does, if people’s lives aren’t in danger, you don’t have the right to shoot and kill someone.

“No matter how they look, the demographic of them, the size of them, whatever.”

READ MORE: US women's soccer star Rapinoe joins Kaepernick anthem protest

Odrick, who has remained in the US due to injury, admitted he was disappointed at some of the criticisms aimed at Kaepernick for trying to raise awareness of racial issues in the US.

“In my locker room alone, amongst even black players, the flag means totally different things,” he said.

“Because you have people coming from military backgrounds that are black, that have strong feelings and emotions tied to the flag, tied to their family, and tied to the death of close ones as well.

“The protests are not something that I think – at least from my observations – are intended as an affront to any service members.

“It always confuses me when people make it that and only that. That way the real conversation gets lost. And I think the real conversation is something that still needs to continue developing.”

With both the American and British national anthems due to be played before the game, it's possible that some players may choose the international audience factor to make a statement.

While Robinson said he wasn’t planning to protest at all this weekend and was unsure whether any of the other players would do so.

“But at the end of the day – you never know,” he said.

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