Colin Kaepernick created a firestorm when he chose to remain seated during the national anthem prior to the 49ers’ preseason matchup with the Green Bay Packers on Friday night. Kaepernick’s actions have been met with criticism, but regardless of the backlash, he plans to continue his protest.
"I'll continue to sit," Kaepernick told the media following Sunday’s practice. "I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there's significant change and I feel that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it's supposed to, I'll stand."
Specifically, Kaepernick feels that issues like police brutality, and oppression of people of color, are issues that aren’t being dealt with properly in this country. For him, this is about using his voice to help those who don’t have the kind of reach he has as a professional athlete.
"This stand wasn’t for me," Kaepernick said. "This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t."
Some have called his protest a distraction, but Kaepernick insists it isn’t, saying it’s something that can spark conversations that may bring about change.
"No, I don't see it being a distraction," Kaepernick said. "It's something that can unify this team. It's something that can unify this country. If we have these real conversations that are uncomfortable for a lot of people. If we have these conversations, there's a better understanding of where both sides are coming from."
Kaepernick addressed the team prior to Sunday’s practice and after practice concluded his teammates expressed support for his actions.
Center Daniel Kilgore told Cam Inman of the Mercury News that he wasn’t on board with Kaepernick’s decision at first, but Kaepernick won him over.
"When it came out, honestly I took offense to it," Kilgore said. "But after Kap stated his case and seeing where he’s coming from, I do stand with Kap when he says enough is enough against crime, violence, discrimination and racism."
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman supports Kaepernick but stressed that the team can’t allow Kaepernick’s actions to divide the locker room.
#49ers NaVorro Bowman:"Everyone in this country is entitled to their own opinion and beliefs."— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) August 28, 2016
Bowman: We support Colin. We don't think it's bad thing he's voiced his opinion on such strong topic. But cant allow this to divide our team— Cam Inman (@CamInman) August 28, 2016
Wide receiver Torrey Smith said Kaepernick understands how people will react to his decision to protest the national anthem.
"I know he’s taken a lot of heat for it, and he understands when you do something like that, it offends a lot of people," Smith said. "When I think of the national anthem, I think of the soldiers that have died for our rights, and a right that he exercised."
Other players around the league have reacted to Kaepernick’s actions, and reactions have been mixed.
"I think it’s a guy standing up for what he believes in," Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett told Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times on Sunday. "I think this is America, so he has the right to have any type of beliefs he wants."
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins noted that Kaepernick’s motives were good, but said Kaepernick may not get the results he wants because the focus has shifted to his perceived lack of patriotism.
"You just have to make sure that your message is effectively communicated and that you are putting yourself into position to get the change that you want," Jenkins told Turron Davenport of USA Today. "That’s not to say that what he did was wrong, I just don’t know if he is going to get the results, reactions or solutions that he is looking for."
Giants receiver Victor Cruz said Kaepernick should stand with his teammates and respect the flag.
"I think, personally, the flag is the flag," Cruz said. "Regardless of how you feel about things that are going on in America today, and the things that are going on across the world with gun violence and things of that nature, you've got to respect the flag, and you've got to stand up with your teammates. It's bigger than just you, in my opinion."
Now with the Vikings, offensive lineman Alex Boone didn’t agree with the way his former teammate chose to protest.
"I was upset, disappointed," said Boone, via ESPN. "That flag gives you the right to do whatever you want and I understand that.
"But at the same time, you have to show some respect."
Kaepernick said after Sunday’s practice that his protest isn’t a show of disrespect toward the military and the sacrifices they make. It’s about demanding liberty and justice for every American.
"I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country," Kaepernick said. "I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody."
The backlash and criticism of Kaepernick’s decision to remain seated during the national anthem will surely continue, but so will his protest.
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