KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The entire Kansas City Chiefs roster stood on the sidelines linked arm in arm during the national anthem ahead of the team’s season opener against the San Diego Chargers.
Cornerback Marcus Peters stood at the end of the line, holding his right arm extended above his head with has hand forming a fist.
“I was just stating how I’m black, I love being black and I support Colin (Kaepernick) and what he’s doing as far as raising awareness with the justice system,” Peters said. “I didn’t mean anything bad by it.”
Peters said he discussed his feelings with coach Andy Reid and received approval to express his thoughts.
Reid said he had no questions about Peters and his respect for law enforcement and the military.
“You don’t ever question that with this guy,” Reid said. “He just wants what is right, like we all do. I think that’s the important thing.”
The team issued a statement on behalf of the players immediately afterward, crediting it as “representing all Kansas City Chiefs players.”
Quarterback Alex Smith said the decision to link arms indicated the team stood unified together.
“We were unified that we were all going to be linked up together,” Smith said. “That was important for us to be together, that we’re a team and we’re going to do this together.”
In the statement, players indicated their interesting in having conversations with local law enforcement and community leaders in Kansas City on social issues in the area.
Wide receiver Chris Conley said players have had thoughtful debates and discussion among themselves and stand united as a team.
“This is not the only thing we’re going to do,” Conley said. “We’re not just going to link arms before games. We’re actually going to do some things here in the community to reach out try to improve relations.”
Conley said he hopes he and his teammates can meet with police, first responders and other community leaders to discuss local social issues.
Teammate Jeremy Maclin said he was looking forward to taking part in any meetings the team can arrange.
“We plan on taking it outside the organization and dealing with people who can make change,” Maclin said. “That’s what people have to realize. It’s going to take everybody. That’s was part of what we wanted to get across.”
The full statement issued on behalf of the players read: “After having a number of thoughtful discussions as a group regarding our representation during the National Anthem, we decided collectively to lock arms as a sign of solidarity.
“It was our goal to be unified as a team and to be respectful of everyone’s opinions, and the remembrance of 9/11. It’s our job as professional athletes to make a positive impact on our communities and to be proactive when change is needed.
“Together we are going to continue to have conversations, educate ourselves and others on social issues and work with local law enforcement officials and leaders to make an impact on the Kansas City community.”