Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Saints quarterback Drew Brees brokered a deal to bring both teams together for a display of unity before the nationally televised Monday Night Football game.
After the national anthem was played, both teams went to the middle of the field and held hands in a big circle for a minute of silence.
“That was something that Saints brought to our attention early in the week,” Ryan said. “I reached out to Drew (Brees) and told him that we were on board.”
Players around the league have been speaking up and protesting at games during the national anthem over racial injustices and the real or perceived improper use of deadly force by police in several cities.
“I think the big thing was, everybody knows what’s been going on throughout this entire year and for a long time and people think things need to change,” Ryan said. “We all felt like the best way to do it was that everybody do it together. We wanted to send a message loud and clear that unity is probably the best way to make change and I thought that come out loud and clear tonight.”
Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was linked up with a Saints player.
“I thought that was awesome,” Weatherspoon said. “Our chiefs and captains talked about what we wanted to do before the game. We wanted to get together and do something. I think it was great to go lock-in with the Saints.”
Weatherspoon said he was moved by the experience.
“Those guys were all about it,” Weatherspoon said. “We were about it. We took our little moment of silence. I think it was something that needed to be done.
“It speaks volumes with both teams are all about the same thing. We’re not just about ball. It’s deeper than ball and some people don’t like to get into that because people look at you and they judge you. Ultimately, it’s about love and we showed that to each other tonight.”
Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews was fine with the display, but didn’t want to protest during the anthem.
“We talked about it as a team and decided that it would be a good way to show that we are a united front,” Matthews said. “That was good.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn has discussed the issues of protesting with the team for a few weeks. He just wanted it to be about the whole team and not just individuals.
“I thought it was a cool moment for the teams,” Quinn said. “Here are two archrival teams, coming together, knowing that they are trying to create some meaningful change.
“I thought that it was a good opportunity for those guys to show and demonstrate that together. I was really proud of that.”