With a wave of backlash already circulating the internet, QB Colin Kaepernick defended his position to sit during the national anthem and call attention to contentious race relations in America.
Talking to Steve Wyche of the NFL Network, Kaepernick said:
“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 issued a statement Friday night defending the quarterback’s right to exercise his first amendment rights, and Kaepernick said he didn’t seek permission from the team to sit during the anthem prior to his action:
“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.”
Kaepernick’s action comes during a time where the athlete has used both his Twitter and Instagram accounts to spread social commentary on the racial unrest that is gripping the nation.
Recent retweets on Kaepernick’s page include a posting in which the author states “Folks always want to make it seem like White Supremacy is whiteness gone wild. No. It’s a standard [american flag] practice,” and other tweets regarding the Black Lives Matter movement.
Kaepernick was also seen during last night’s press conference wearing clothing with the image of civil rights activist Malcolm X.
Athletes in the past have taken a political stance against honoring the national anthem, and have been reprimanded for their actions. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who broke into the NBA with the Denver Nuggets, was suspended one game for his refusal to stand during the anthem.
Like Kaepernick, Abdul-Rauf cited a history of oppression against people of color in his decision to not stand.
Whether Kaepernick will face punishment as Abdul-Rauf remains to be seen, though it seems unlikely given the nation’s current political climate.
The league released a statement on the issue through insider Ian Rapoport:
“Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”