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Rams’ Kenny Britt and Robert Quinn join national anthem protest

Rams receiver Kenny Britt and defensive lineman Robert Quinn raise their fists in protest before playing the San Francisco 49ers.
(Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt and defensive end Robert Quinn held their right fists in the air during the national anthem Monday night, in apparent solidarity with San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt along with teammate Eric Reid on the 49ers sideline.

Kaepernick has refused to stand for the anthem since the beginning of the exhibition season in protest of what he deems is a history of racial oppression in the country, including recent police brutality incidents.

“It brings awareness,” Kaepernick recently told reporters. “Everybody knows what’s going on, and this sheds more light on it. Now, I think people are really talking about it.”

Britt was one of five players, including current wide receiver Tavon Austin, who entered the field before a game in St. Louis in 2014 with their hands in the air in “don’t shoot” poses, a show of support for protesters in Ferguson, Mo., where an unarmed black teenager was shot by a white police officer in August 2014.

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The Rams experienced a backlash from that protest, with the St. Louis Police Officers Assn. complaining that the gesture was “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory,” and some fans threatening to cancel their season tickets.

Though Rams Coach Jeff Fisher hasn’t placed any restrictions on his players this season, he probably wasn’t pleased with the actions of Britt and Quinn.

Fisher’s reverence for the anthem was made clear in “Hard Knocks,” HBO’s reality series about the team. In one scene, Fisher explained to players the importance of lining up, helmet under left arm and right hand over heart, for the anthem, like all of his players — except Britt and Quinn — did in Levi’s Stadium on Monday night.

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“It’s a respect thing,” Fisher said. “It’s a self-respect thing, a respect for your teammates. It’s a respect for this game. It’s a respect for this country. … It’s an opportunity to realize how lucky you are.”

Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff said before the game that he was unaware of any planned protests.

“We want to help the players best express themselves so they get their point across and the people understand and respect their viewpoint,” Demoff said. “Your goal is always that your team acts together.”

Run, Blaine, run

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49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert hurt the Rams more with his legs than his arm in the first half. Gabbert, with the backs of several defenders turned, raced 11 yards up the middle for a first down on San Francisco’s first possession.

Gabbert scrambled for runs of five yards and 11 yards on the 49ers’ first touchdown drive in the first quarter. On third and four from the Rams’ 15-yard line, Gabbert eluded several tacklers on a nine-yard run, absorbing a punishing hit from Rams linebacker Mark Barron at the end of the play.

That set up Shaun Draughn’s three-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 San Francisco lead with 8:21 left in the second quarter.

“We’re not a quarterback-run team by any stretch of the imagination, but he can get out of harm’s way when the rush is coming,” 49ers Coach Chip Kelly said. “Sometimes you may be in man-coverage and your guys have their backs turned down the field, and now the quarterback is running. It just adds another dimension that defenses have to be aware of.”

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Return of Rob

After sitting out off-season workouts and nearly all of training camp because of a foot injury, Rob Havenstein started at right tackle Monday night.

The 6-foot-8, 321-pound Havenstein, who started 13 games last season and did not allow a sack, played sparingly in only one exhibition game, at Minnesota on Sept. 1.

He was listed as questionable on the final injury report, but his start enabled the Rams to move Rodger Saffold, who had been playing right tackle in Havenstein’s place, to left guard and start the line that played most of last season together.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna


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