Benjamin Watson. Derek Carr. Alejandro Villanueva.
Separately, they represent three different NFL teams, three different field positions, and three different nationalities—but together, these men are forming ONE united front amidst the NFL protest that created a social media uproar this weekend.
Donald Trump’s call for the NFL to fire any “son of a b***” who got down on one knee during the anthem has fueled America’s already white-hot, racially-divisive fire.
Colin Kaepernick’s controversial decision to kneel last season in an effort to take a stand against black oppression has created a wide spectrum of responses, ranging from “STAND or be anti-American” to “KNEEL or be a racist disgrace.”
But a few brave souls are taking a higher road that is worthy of note and sending exactly the message our nation needs right now. I believe there are a few things we can learn from three Christian NFL stars who STOOD—in love, rather than hate.
Though Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson admitted that he would not have knelt along with Kaepernick last year, he still fully supports the reasons why he, and others, have decided to protest in that way.
“I support him in what he decided to do,” said Watson in an interview with Good Morning America. “I haven’t kneeled, but the reasons why he kneeled, the police brutality, the excessive force, and as he said, the oppression of different people of color, those are all concerns of mine and have been since before Colin decided to kneel, and have been for a lot of other people in our country as well.”
The tight end says chapel that morning before the game was riveted with emotion as guys discussed the tension between “wanting to respect [their] country and show love for their country, but also wanting to respond in solidarity.”
Watson’s chosen response was to stand in unison with America, while respecting his kneeling brothers, and ultimately pointing to the King as the only hope for restoring peace:
“I locked arms, and I also pointed to the skies just because I really believe that the Lord will really have to have His hand on us when it comes to reconciling our differences.”
And Watson wasn’t the only one calling on God during the most emotionally-charged National Anthem of the season.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr could be spotted standing and praying as he locked arms with fellow teammates.
— The Columbia Bugle (@ColumbiaBugle) September 25, 2017
After boldly speaking out about tithing just after signing the largest contract in NFL history, Carr’s stance on praying amidst the chaos came as no surprise.
When asked about his decision and President Trump’s crude remarks, Carr responded like the class act he is:
“Basically came down to show people we’re unified and show people we love one another. Obviously some guys stood and we wanted to make sure we were together, whether you agree or disagree. From the outside looking in, for standing or sitting or whatever, we all love one another, whether one guy sits or one guy stands.
I don’t have the answers, but I know everyday I just go out and love people. There’s not any person that I [meet] that I don’t love. Some people may get under my skin a little bit but I still love them.”
Last but not least, offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva made a bold move for Christ and his fellow servicemen as the ONLY Pittsburgh Steelers player who came outside the tunnel during the anthem.
Villanueva may be a lesser known name in the NFL arena, but the Spanish-American quickly became the best-selling player in NFL gear by mid-day Monday after his courageous act.
“I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that’s providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year…when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year,” said the former Army Ranger last year, after serving three tours in Afghanistan.
He remarked that he had no intention of creating controversy or “making his teammates look bad” in his decision to stand on Sunday.
Like Watson and Carr, Villanueva’s stance was not one made out of animosity for his oppressed brothers, but rather out of respect for the men who have served and the God who protected him in the heat of war.
“You get to that specific moment when there are bullets flying over your head and there’s nothing and no one you can turn to except for God,” he said in an earlier interview, adding that “I started to understand that everything I have I owe to God.”
So there we have it…
One black man. One white man. And one Hispanic man, standing as one nation under God.
While they certainly aren’t the only ones, I think they stand as a model example for the brand of unity that our country so desperately needs right now—not one that is clean-cut, black and white, but one that is most accurately portrayed in shades of gray…in men who may agree to disagree, in men who stand with their country while putting a hand on their kneeling brother…and in men who point to the Almighty God as the only source of hope that can restore a broken nation.