Colin Kaepernick is speaking out after the 49ers quarterback refused to stand for the U.S. national anthem before last night’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, telling the NFL that “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
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 responded to Kaepernick’s symbolic statement by recognizing his right to protest the anthem:
The National Anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. 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 and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.
Kaepernick is the highest-profile athlete to protest the national anthem since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in 1996—for which the NBA suspended him. Kaepernick’s Twitter feed has been tweeting out anti-white supremacist statements for a lengthy period of time.
“I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed,” Kaepernick told NFL.com. “If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Update (1:12 p.m.): The NFL says there is no requirement for players to stand during the national anthem, while Schefter notes that Kaepernick didn’t stand for the two previous preseason games, either, but nobody noticed.