DICKINSON, N.D. - Before their game against Presentation College on Saturday, Sept. 24, five black Dickinson State football players - Tray Boone, Rob Sterling, Jamion Lindsey, Karsten Mack Jr., and Dean Washington - locked arms in solidarity for the duration of the national anthem, a gesture that stems from the trend started by San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
When the anthem was over, Boone raised his fist in a move shadowing what numerous black NFL players have done in recent weeks in response to the shooting of black men by police across the country - most recently in Charlotte and Tulsa, Okla.
The idea to link arms, which originated with Sterling and Boone, according to Boone, was a compromise between kneeling and doing nothing, and was an attempt to show solidarity with the protest without causing what some might see as disrespect.
"We felt like we wanted to stand up for ourselves, in a respectful way. We didn't want to take a knee or nothing, but we still wanted to make it known that we're with that movement," Lindsey said. "In my eyes, there's nothing wrong with it. People have freedom of speech. Honestly, the stuff that's going on around the world, it seems wrong to me. We live in a crazy world. That's why I'm doing it. I'm not doing this because I'm this color and I feel like I'm being disrespected. I'm doing it because we're all having to deal with this."
All but one of the players are from California except Mack, who is from Texas. Boone and Washington are from Los Angeles, Sterling is from Palmdale, and Lindsey is from Moreno Valley.
"We know the Kaepernick thing, we were trying to go in a different direction. We thought, 'How can we still get the point across and let people know and try to spread the awareness?'" Boone said. "There's not much of this (injustice) going on in North Dakota, but we're from those areas."
According to Boone, Sterling had approached head coach Pete Stanton about the idea earlier in the week. The response, said Boone, was more of a "we'll see."
After the game, Stanton declined to extensively comment.
Boone said the intention was not to upset anybody - especially the people who watch and support DSU football - but to contribute to finding a solution toward injustice in America, particularly involving police brutality.
"Right now, at this point in time in the world, it's difficult for colored people, and I'm not going to say blacks because it's more than blacks. It's browns, it's reds. It's police brutality," Boone said.
"We're trying to get the awareness that the police are getting out of hand. I'm not going to go completely against the police, because the police are people, too. Especially with what's going on in Charlotte, they're scared for their lives also," he added, referring to the recent riots in North Carolina. "We have to work together and come to a conclusion and a solution. At this point, it's about getting people aware."