By D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
Atlanta Falcons players stood, most with a hand over their chest, during the playing of the national anthem before the start of the season-opener against Seattle Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Seattle had several players kneel, including star linebacker K.J. Wright. Seattle safety Jamal Adams stood near the 50 with his hand raised during the national anthem.
During the kickoff, both teams knelt in a moment of silence.
ExplorePhotos: Scene at Falcons’ season opener in empty Mercedes-Benz Stadium
The team issued a statement shortly after the start of the game:
We Rise Up to bring inspiration, access and opportunities to younger generations in ATL.
We Rise Up to bring awareness to important social issues that impact our locker room, our families and our community.
We Rise up for mental health awareness to decrease the stigma and understand that asking for help is a sign of strength.
We Rise Up and continue to unify our communities and use our collective voices for good.
We Rise Up to celebrate our similarities AND our differences.
We Rise Up against social injustice, racism, sexism and every other form of discrimination.
We Rise Up to support BLACK lives because we believe ALL lives matter.
We Rise Up to take action by increasing voter awareness, education and registration.
“We support our players ability to raise their individual and collective voices and continue to create much-needed change in the world. Together we will continue to shine a light on social issues that affect our community.”
– From the Atlanta Falcons Social Justice Committee
Before going into the locker room after warming up, the Seahawks and Falcons stood at their respective goal lines while “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was played over the loudspeakers. The James Weldon Johnson classic, which is commonly referred to as the Black National Anthem, was performed by Grammy Award winning artist Alicia Keys while videos of the Falcons social justice committee were shown on the video boards.
The NFL announced earlier this year that players will be able to honor victims of systemic racism on their helmets during the 2020 season. Players can list the name of a victim of social injustice or a phrase on the bottom of their helmet.
The Falcons released the names of the 38 players who will participate this season and their chosen name or phrase. Among the participants, Matt Ryan will wear “It Takes All of Us;” Julio Jones will wear “Aiyana Stanley-Jones;” Todd Gurley will wear “Black Lives Matter;” and Grady Jarrett will wear “Breonna Taylor.”
In addition to wearing the helmet decals, the team made former politician John Lewis an honorary captain.
Quinn instituted a social-justice committee on the team in 2017.
Both teams honored the life of late Congressman John Lewis by wearing white armbands featuring his initials.
Wide receiver Julio Jones was one of the players wearing shirts that feature a quote from Lewis on the front and the Rise Up & Vote logo on the back during pregame warmups. The quote read, “The Vote is The Most Powerful Nonviolent Change Agent You have in a Democratic Society.”
The Falcons also named Lewis an honorary captain for the game.