San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to acknowledge the national anthem wasn’t on the spur of the moment. In fact, the athlete was prepared to take a stance on behalf of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
The 28-year-old’s protest took place Friday evening (Aug 27) during an exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick decided to sit as fellow teammates and opponents took part in the national anthem. In an interview with NFL Media, Kaepernick explained the patriotic symbol of hope and prosperity doesn’t reflect the times of racial tension a portion of Americans are living through today. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said to Steve Wyche. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The 49ers released a statement, noting the player has sat out in another preseason game and their thoughts on his actions. “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pregame ceremony,” the team said. “It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.” The league also pointed out that players are “encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”
Kaepernick has been in deep support of Black Lives Matter and has constantly raised awareness through social media on xenophobia, racism and human rights since last year. In December 2015, the player took to Instagram to challenge Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on his aggressive race-fueled campaign tactics.
Kaepernick also told Wyche he wanted to make sure he was fully educated on the matter of civil rights and police shootings before making a public statement. “This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he said. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Giants offensive guard Justin Pugh and other members of the NFL community have taken offense to Kaepernick’s protest, while others have defended his right to use his platform in a cultural way.
Check out the swift reactions below.
I will be STANDING during the National Anthem tonight. Thank you to ALL (Gender,Race,Religion)that put your lives on the line for that flag
— Justin Pugh (@JustinPugh) August 27, 2016
Activists changed USA for better but have to associate Nat Anthem w/ military that die for ur right to protest. Stand up. Find another way
— Tyler Polumbus (@Tyler_Polumbus) August 27, 2016
I don't have any thoughts on his personal decisions boss, I love everybody no matter what. https://t.co/EBb6N3XvJf
— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) August 27, 2016
Kaep is using his platform & brand to make a compelling & polarizing point, which is his right, even if it's met with ire!#idontagree
— Tiki Barber (@TikiBarber) August 27, 2016
Texts coming in from coaches, players, front office execs from around league on Kap. So far every player backs him. No coach/exec does.
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) August 27, 2016