Seth DeValve is believed to be the first white NFL player to kneel during the national anthem when the Cleveland Browns tight end joined his teammates in what he referred to as a prayer group prior to Monday's preseason game against the New York Giants.
DeValve said recent events in Charlottesville, Va., had a lot to do with his decision. The 24-year-old went a step further by saying the situation hits close to home as his wife, Erica, is African-American.
"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. "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."
DeValve's inclusion in the Browns' protest comes in the same week that Philadelphia's Chris Long and Seattle's Justin Britt symbolically joined protests by holding on to the shoulder of their teammates. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr wrapped his arm around teammate Khalil Mack during the anthem.
Those joining DeValve by taking a knee on Monday were running backs Duke Johnson Jr. and Terrence Magee, safeties Peppers and Calvin Pryor, cornerback Jamar Taylor, receivers Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis, linebackers Kirksey and Jamie Collins, and running backs Isaiah Crowell and Brandon Wilds (who were not in uniform).
Those who stood nearby included punter Britton Colquitt (who also had his hand on his heart), cornerback Jason McCourty, rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, defensive tackle Trevon Coley and offensive tackle Shon Coleman.
"The United States is the greatest country in the world," DeValve said. "It is because it provides opportunities to its citizens that no other country does. The issue is that it doesn't provide equal opportunity to everybody. And I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee. We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there's things in this country that still need to change."
Coach Hue Jackson was on record last week as supporting his players' right to make a statement, as long as it was peaceful and that he had advanced notice.
"We respect our players; we respect the flag," Jackson said Monday night. "Those guys came to me and talked to me about it before they ever made a decision to do it."
The Browns released a statement during halftime of the team's game against the Giants.
"As an organization, we have a profound respect for our country's National Anthem, flag and the servicemen and servicewomen in the United States and abroad," the statement read. "We feel it's important for our team to join in this great tradition and special moment of recognition, at the same time we also respect the great liberties afforded by our country, including the freedom of personal expression."