As social media users continue to scream polarizing opinions surrounding QB Colin Kaepernick, 49ers head coach Chip Kelly looked to defuse any notion of internal strife during his conference call with reporters Saturday afternoon.
Echoing statements by both the San Francisco 49ers and league office, Kelly said the team will not impede the quarterback’s freedom of expression after he repeatedly refused to stand for the singing of the national anthem in preseason games:
“We recognize his right of any individual to choose to participate or not participate in the national anthem. And so does the league. The league statement is they encourage them, but it’s not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem, so it’s his right as a citizen.”
Kelly confirmed Kaepernick’s statement to NFL Network that he did not ask coaches or the organization for permission to not stand during the singing of the national anthem during the 49ers’ 21-10 preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers Friday night.
While some have speculated this most recent controversy may be the final straw that pushes Kaepernick out of San Francisco, Kelly stated that the quarterback’s sideline action has no bearing on his bid to overtake Blaine Gabbert for the starting role:
“He’s competing with Blaine to see who our starting quarterback is gonna be … We haven’t had any discussions in terms of starters right now. Our whole focus today was really making our cuts to 75 [people].”
Both NFL players and fans have reacted with widely divergent opinions to Kaepernick’s protest during Friday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers.
Bengals TE Tyler Eifert, Giants OL Justin Pugh and former quarterback Matt Hasselbeck have all spoken out against the incident, while the likes of Miami RB Arian Foster , Broncos T Russell Okung and others have supported his actions.
Fans have also taken to the internet with videos of themselves burning Kaepernick’s jersey due to his actions.