Fans who witnessed the famous “take the knee” demonstration by superstar players at Sunday’s New York Red Bulls and New York City Giants games can now be part of history themselves.
Former Washington Redskins wide receiver Jess Carter and his wife, Magdalena Eriksson, a former Washington Capitals forward, said they just hope their presence was not in vain for National Football League players who will likely continue to kneel during the national anthem.
“I hope when they see me, they realize they’re not alone,” Eriksson said in a phone interview with The Washington Post. “In some instances, you think a protest like this is totally justified, but I do understand the politics of this. I think any kind of change would be good in that the protests and kneeling have been growing to a major level, and there needs to be some kind of change to this.”
About a half-hour before the Giants’ game against the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium, the 30-year-old and 35-year-old sat in their seats – normally reserved for players’ wives – to watch their father, Jim Carter, coach his New York Red Bulls team and watch the game.
They kept their heads down as players from New York’s two teams knelt during the anthem. The crowd stood up and applauded the action. Eriksson, who plays for New York Reign of the National Women’s Hockey League, said she initially saw the gesture as the players of New York’s teams and their families standing in solidarity with one another.
But once the game started, Eriksson said, she realized how symbolic the protest was for some of the league’s owners, who made headlines last year for making their teams’ season-openers protest-free.
“Any kind of change would be good,” Eriksson said. “We started to think maybe our presence wasn’t really being, like, super noticed by any of the players.”
Eriksson said she doesn’t agree with NFL owners making players pay “millions and millions of dollars” to play a game that eventually divides the country.
“We’re in a situation now where the protests aren’t really about police brutality or social injustices, but, like, general protesting of ‘oppression,’ which to me sounds like ridiculous things, because the police don’t have that excuse,” she said. “The police are part of our economy, and they help us protect our country and our neighborhoods.
“If I were an NFL player, I would be worried that my jobs would be threatened if I stood up and protested against something that is a part of my country, and that’s not the case, so maybe I would protest too,” she added.
Eriksson and Carter said their game-day sit-in was a way to show their support for NFL players’ cause without making waves. Eriksson said that when she wasn’t wearing a shirt in support of athletes protesting, she doesn’t wear a Patriots jersey to support Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who appeared on Fox News on Sunday.
A roster spot on the local Red Bulls is available for a player who supports the cause of NFL players kneeling. Currently, that player is likely to be Jim Carter’s son, who recently was released from the Red Bulls, Eriksson said. The Red Bulls are in the midst of a playoff chase.
Eriksson said it was a way to express support to someone who was interested in stepping into the Red Bulls’ lineup and possibly fitting into the community and winning over the fans.
“I don’t want to see young people not have that chance,” she said. “I want them to understand that other people are suffering and it’s good for them to stand up for that.”