Los Angeles Rams defensive end Robert Quinn raised his fist and San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick was among several players who knelt during performances of the U.S. national anthem on Sunday.
Three Miami Dolphin players also "took a knee" before their game against the New England Patriots as public protests continued in the National Football League aimed at drawing attention to racial inequality.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell weighed in before Sunday night's game between the Minnesota Vikings and visiting Green Bay Packers, saying he was encouraged by the direction players were taking their demonstrations.
"I truly respect our players wanting to speak out and change their community," Goodell said, according to the New York Times. "We don't live in a perfect society. We want them to use their voice."
"And they're moving from protest to progress and trying to make things happen in communities," he added, with a nod toward the community work some players are engaging in.
"I think where they're moving and how they're moving there is very productive and we're going to encourage that."
Kaepernick started what has become a controversy when he began the gesture against injustice and police brutality by refusing to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner" during preseason games.
On Sunday, he and 49ers safety Eric Reid again knelt for the national anthem before their game against the Carolina Panthers, while safeties Antoine Bethea and Jaquiski Tartt, linebacker Eli Harold and cornerback Rashard Robinson raised their right fists.
In Los Angeles, Quinn also held his right fist high during a rendition of the national anthem by American singer-songwriter CeeLo Green ahead of the Rams' regular season home opener against the Seattle Seahawks.
The gesture by Quinn, 26, 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.
Arian Foster, Kenny Stills and Michael Thomas of the Miami Dolphins knelt before their game in New England, and Tennessee Titans cornerback Jason McCourty and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey raised their fists in Detroit.
The protesting players have been seen 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 nation in general.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Larry Fine)