A little over a week ago, the NFL made quite a splash with Roger Goodell issuing a public statement that the league had gotten things wrong when it came to the protests of police brutality several years ago. In the statement Goodell admitted that the league had erred in not listening to NFL players earlier when players such as Colin Kaepernick peacefully protested against police brutality during the national anthem by taking a knee.
We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter. #InspireChange pic.twitter.com/ENWQP8A0sv
— NFL (@NFL) June 5, 2020
Kaepernick and former San Francisco 49ers teammate Eric Reid are, of course, the names most widely associated with the protests, though there were certainly others. Several members of the Seattle Seahawks participated in some form of the protest as well, including Michael Bennett regularly sitting during the anthem in 2017 with Justin Britt showing his support.
Over the past two seasons left tackle Duane Brown has stayed in the locker room while the anthem ceremonies take place on the field in the name of social justice, however during his recent offseason meeting with the press, he got straight to the point when asked if there had been progress on the issue.
Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown, one of 3 players to stay in the locker room during the national anthem the past 2 years in the name of social justice, was asked if we’ve made progress there.
— Dugar, Michael-Shawn (@MikeDugar) May 27, 2020
All of this is coming at a time when players across the league are stating their intention to take a knee during the anthem this fall.
Even Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien has stated that he intends to take a knee with his players during the anthem this fall.
BREAKING: The Head Coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans Bill O’Brien says he will kneel with his team this year during the National Anthem…
— Matt Couch (@RealMattCouch) June 12, 2020
This marks a big change for the Texans, of course, who just a few years ago were reported to have orders from ownership to avoid signing players who had protested during the anthem. How much trust there was behind that rumor fans may never know for certain, however, it does lead the discussion back to another former Seahawk whose name has not been mentioned much in recent weeks, Jeremy Lane.
Lane will, of course, forever be linked to Brown because of the trade which brought Brown to the Hawks, while the Texans failed Lane’s physical and forced Seattle to send a third round pick instead. While Lane never lived up to the contract the team gave him in the spring of 2016 and was released just halfway through the four year contract. Just months after the trade to the Texans fell through, Lane was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and then released by Seattle less than two months later.
While Lane has been out of football since his release by the Seahawks despite not turning 30 until next month, he will forever hold a spot in history. While Kaepernick is credited as the one who started the protest, and others across the league and in other sports joined in, Lane’s name has largely been left out of the conversation. This, in spite of the fact that he is believed to be the first non-49ers player to protest, sitting during the national anthem during the Seahawks final preseason game of 2017.
What change will come and how the world might be different going forward no one can say at this point. However, what can be said is that amidst all the big names joining the protests and the large national brands professing support for those protesters, it was Lane who was the first non-49ers player to join in the protest.