On Monday night, the Cleveland Browns hosted the New York Giants in an unremarkable NFL preseason game. The most notable moment came before anyone even touched a football.
During the pre-game ceremony, a dozen Browns players knelt during the playing of the national anthem, with others standing beside them in a show of support. Among those knelt behind the Cleveland bench was Browns tight end Seth DeValve, who became the first white NFL player to do so.
DeValve’s participation comes less than a week after Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett sat for an interview on ESPN’s SportsCenter and urged white players to join the growing movement throughout the league.
“It would take a white player to really get things changed,” Bennett told ESPN last Wednesday. “Because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it … it would change the whole conversation.” The following day, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long stood with one arm around the shoulders of black teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who raised a fist during the anthem.
In post-game interviews, DeValve — whose wife is black — cited the recent spate of neo-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia and elsewhere for his decision to participate in the protests, which have been used to call attention to police brutality and the resurgence of white supremacy in the age of Donald Trump.
“I myself will be raising children that don’t look like me, and I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have right now,” DeValve said, according to ESPN. “So I wanted to take the opportunity with my teammates during the anthem to pray for our country and also to draw attention to the fact that we have work to do.”
In the first two weeks of preseason football, dozens of players across several teams have participated in some form of silent protest during the national anthem. The movement has only grown since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first opted to kneel during the anthem during the preseason last year. Since then, athletes across the country—from high school football players to world champion Olympians—have joined in.
For his part, Kaepernick remains unsigned by an NFL team, with less than a month until opening night. Many speculate that Kaepernick’s activism is the only thing keeping the league’s notoriously conservative and white owners from signing him.