CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Minutes before the Panthers' game against the Raiders, the players and coaching staff lined up side-by-side in the north end zone and stood as “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” played in the background.
Panthers owner David Tepper also joined.
When the song played, Teddy Bridgewater said he cried. He said it was an emotional feeling.
“I had to run off the field early,” he said. “And I was just thinking about, man, just the the process, the journey and what all it took for me to get back to the stage.”
Bridgewater was also one of eight Carolina players who took a knee when the national anthem was played.
Some players held their fist in the air while standing, a few locked arms and some put their hands on the shoulders of players who knelt. The Raiders locked arms and stood.
“It was one of those things where we talked about collectively,” Bridgewater said. "We always talk about trying to show some unity and it was our way of trying to show unity that we’re all going to be out there together.
“Some guys were going to kneel, some guys were going to lock arms, some guys were going to put up a fist, some guys were going to put a hand on a guy that was kneeling to show, at the end of the day, we’re all one.”
The demonstration was part of a number of initiatives around the NFL, planned by teams as they protest racism, and try to send a message of unity.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which was written by James Weldon Johnson, is often referred to as the Black National Anthem.
The lyrics include:
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on 'til victory is won.
Bridgewater said he became emotional as the song played.
After the song was over, there was a moment of silence before the players ran back to the locker room.
The Panthers met Friday to discuss how they would proceed with a social justice movement. Some players also wore decals on the back of their helmets of victims of police shootings. Some wore T-shirts with the message “End Racism.”
Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson, who also knelt Sunday, said he planned to kneel for the entire season.
“It was just a collective decision of things that I have witnessed throughout the world,” Anderson said. “Hopefully when things change, maybe I’ll change. It was nothing to disrespect the anthem, but I just feel like it’s an opportunity to show I’m serious about those things, and really hoping for change and trying to bring light to that.”
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was also played before the Kansas City Chiefs-Houston Texas game on Thursday, when some fans in the stands were heard booing.
There were no fans at Bank of America Stadium for the season-opener due to COVID-19 restrictions.