In an NFL season riddled with politics, fists, knees and opinion, Christian players have offered up a powerful reasoning for their decision to join their teammates in taking a knee during the National Anthem.
Spearheaded by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season, the social justice movement was initiated in protest of police brutality and black oppression in the United States.
49ers safety-turned-linebacker Eric Reid says the decision to join his former teammate in kneeling for the Star Spangled Banner last year was rooted in his desire to be a “voice for the voiceless,” a lesson derived from Proverbs 31.
“Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable. Speak out in order to judge with righteousness and to defend the needy and the poor.” Proverbs 31: 8-10
Reid told the associated press in October that he and other Christian players who support Kaepernick’s movement want believers opposing the protest to ask themselves a simple question: “What would Jesus do?”
Explaining that discussions with Kaepernick about faith and Jesus Christ are what led to the movement, Reid says that simple but powerful question is “the foundation of why we started doing this.”
”We all have a love for people. The Bible tells us love your brother as yourself so that’s why we’re doing it. We have to speak up for those who can’t do it for themselves. My faith is ultimately what led me to start protesting and it’s what continues to drive me. Faith without works is dead. I feel like the past year before we started protesting, the Lord has prepped me for this moment.”
Reid, who sees the act of kneeling as a “respectful gesture,” says he’s “baffled” that critics have viewed player demonstrations as a protest against the anthem itself, the American flag, or members of law enforcement and the military.
He’s frustrated in particular with fellow Christians who’ve lashed out against the players and the NFL.
“I do see some hypocrisy with the people that call themselves Christians,” Reid said. ”If you know Jesus, he went into the house of God and turned over the tables and was angry and said they made the house of God into a marketplace so I would say this is something that He would do.”
As previously reported by Faithit, Baltimore Ravens tight end and devout Christian Benjamin Watson has also been outspoken about the protests, saying he’s disappointed by fellow believers who have put ”politics above the gospel, empathy and understanding.”
”We talk about what Jesus would do. Let’s think about that,” said Watson, who stands for the National Anthem. ”How should I biblically look at this situation? Is my response as an American going against what my response should be as a Christian? If I’m a Christian, I want to delight in the things that (Christ) delights in and those things are blind. They’re not based on color, creed or culture or money. Being kind is not predicated on what you can do for me. Justice is not predicated on if I experienced injustice or not. We can advocate for people who have experiences that we don’t even have. True justice is blind and righteous. Christians should be about expanding and promoting the gospel. If you listen or think about the subject matter that players and people are concerned about, you could not as someone who reads scripture turn a blind eye to it.”
Though Watson admits 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.”
Reid was one of only three players who knelt during Sunday’s Veteran’s Day weekend presentation of the National Anthem.
He hopes his call to Christians will prompt believers to take a biblical approach in their discussions about the protests.