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Kansas City player raises fist during anthem of NFL opener

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters raised his fist on Sunday during a performance of the U.S. national anthem, the latest gesture by a National Football League player to draw attention to racial inequality.

San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the protests against injustice and police brutality when he refused to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner" during preseason games, at first choosing to sit on the bench and then later kneeling on one knee in a gesture that has divided fans.

Other players have followed suit, including Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall before Thursday's season opening win against the Carolina Panthers.

The gesture on Sunday by the 23-year-old Peters, who is African-American, recalled the raised fist demonstration by black athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.

See photos of Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters:

9 PHOTOS
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters
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Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters
Aug 13, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters (22) is congratulated by defensive back Daniel Sorensen (49) after Peters's interception during the first half against the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters (22) returns an interception against Houston Texans wide receiver Nate Washington (85) during the second quarter in a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters (22) returns an interception against Houston Texans wide receiver Nate Washington (85) during the second quarter in a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters (22) intercepts a pass intended for Houston Texans wide receiver Nate Washington (85) during the second quarter in a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters (22) intercepts a pass intended for Houston Texans wide receiver Nate Washington (85) during the second quarter in a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 11: Travis Kelce #87 and Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrate as the Chiefs defeat the San Diego Chargers to win the game at Arrowhead Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 11: Travis Kelce #87 and Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrate as the Chiefs defeat the San Diego Chargers to win the game at Arrowhead Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 11: Defensive back Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs rips the helmet off of wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the San Diego Chargers during the game at Arrowhead Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The rest of the Chiefs team stood with interlocked arms during the anthem before their season opener against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, which is also the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks.

Team members said they decided to lock arms as a sign of "solidarity" after discussing the issue as a group.

"It was our goal to be unified as a team and to be respectful of everyone's opinions, and the remembrance of 9/11," the team said in a statement. "It's our job as professional athletes to make a positive impact on our communities and to be proactive when change is needed."

The Seattle Seahawks also locked arms while standing during the national anthem before their season opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear with whom or to what cause the teams were showing solidarity, since Kaepernick's protest involved kneeling or sitting for the anthem. Representatives for the teams could not be immediately reached.

The protesting players have been praised as allies of the Black Lives Matter movement, which grew in response to a string of high-profile police killings of unarmed black people across the country. About two-thirds of NFL players are black.

The protests have also provoked anger in some fans who see the gesture as disrespecting the U.S. flag, the military, and the country in general.

To mark the 15th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, the league said it will play videotaped messages from President Barack Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, before each game, and a 9/11 decal will be placed on players' helmets.

The Seattle Seahawks have said they have decided as a team to stand and also lock arms during the anthem on Sunday.

See photos of San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick:

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Colin Kaepernick
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Colin Kaepernick
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers congratulates Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears following the game at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers congratulates Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears following the game at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers congratulates Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears following the game at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 21: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass during the second quarter of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 21: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick calls a play during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers runs drills on the field prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers stands on the field prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws an interception during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws an interception during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Blaine Gabbert #2 and Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers head to the field prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers drops back to pass against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the second quarter of their game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the first quarter of their game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the first quarter of their game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks to pass during the first quarter of a game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 07: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers during the NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 7, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. The 49ers defeated the Cowboys 28-17. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX- AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers on the sidelines agains the Houston Texans in a pre-season NFL game on August 28, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Houston, Texas, USA. 28th Aug, 2014. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) prior to an NFL preseason game between the Houston Texans and the San Francisco 49ers at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX on August 28th, 2014. © Trask Smith/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News
April 29, 2011 - Turlock, California, U.S. - (Debbie Noda/dnoda@modbee.com) - Parents Teresa and Rick with their son Colin Kaepernick wearing a 49er cap at their Turlock home after in the 2nd round of the NFL draft he was picked by the San Francisco. (Credit Image: © Debbie Noda/Modesto Bee/ZUMAPRE
April 29, 2011 - Turlock, California, U.S. - (Debbie Noda/dnoda@modbee.com) - Colin Kaepernick in the 2nd round of the NFL drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. (Credit Image: © Debbie Noda/Modesto Bee/ZUMAPRESS.com)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick speaks during a press conference at the New Orleans Marriott in New Orleans, Louisiana, Sunday, January 27, 2012. The 49ers will face the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Feb. 3. (Jane Tyska/Oakland Tribune/MCT)
Turlock, CA, USA. 2nd May, 2014. Colin Kaepernick talks with on of the teens at Jessica's House in Turlock CA during a quick visit. Jessica's House provides free support in a safe place for children, teen and their families grieving a death. © Marty Bicek/ZUMAPRESS.com/Alamy Live News
Turlock, CA, USA. 2nd May, 2014. Colin Kaepernick took a second to pose for a group photo with several kids at Jessica's House in Turlock CA. Jessica's House provides free support in a safe place for children, teen and their families grieving a death. © Marty Bicek/ZUMAPRESS.com/Alamy Live News
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"Progress can and will be made only if we stand together," Doug Baldwin, a Seahawks wide receiver, said in a video he posted online announcing the team's decision.

Kaepernick's 49ers play their opening game against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday evening. Obama has defended Kaepernick, saying this week the player is exercising a constitutional right and provoking conversation "around some topics that need to be talked about." (Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Alan Crosby and Peter Cooney)

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