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Baltimore Ravens players stand for black national anthem — then take a knee when 'The Star-Spangled Banner' is played

Sending a clear message

A Black Lives Matter banner is seen prior to the game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday in Baltimore. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

Many Baltimore Ravens players stood during the playing of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," known as the black national anthem, before Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns — then took a knee when the U.S. national anthem was played, according to Outkick.

The NFL is playing the black national anthem before all of its opening week games as a part of its anti-racism initiatives, which include social justice messaging in the end zones and around the stadiums, as well as pregame presentations.

Playing "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" has caused some division among players on different teams, however, as they try to decide whether to stand for both anthems, kneel for both, or remain off the field until the anthems are completed.

The Miami Dolphins announced Thursday that they would be staying in the locker room for both anthems, because they didn't want to participate in the NFL's "fluff and empty gestures."

The Houston Texans did the same before their Thursday night game, with Texans safety Michael Thomas saying they made the decision because they didn't want to be divisive by protesting one anthem and not the other.

"And today, going out for either anthem — to us, it would've been a distraction," Thomas said according to ESPN. "And we just wanted to, again, make a decision as a team, and we decided it would probably be best if we all stayed in. And that's the decision we made, and we were just going to go out there and play."

Regardless of what the NFL's intentions may have been for including "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" in its pregame ceremonies, it has created a dilemma for some players and supporters who have insisted that kneeling during the national anthem is not a specifically anti-American gesture; that stance becomes harder to defend when players stand for a black national anthem and kneel for the U.S. anthem.

The originator of anthem kneeling, former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, doesn't approve of any of the league's social justice efforts. The quarterback-turned-activist referred to it as "propaganda."

The ratings for the NFL's season opener were significantly lower than the previous year, and anecdotally, many fans have expressed online that they don't want to watch the games because of the league's heavy emphasis on social justice demonstrations.

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