San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained steadfast in his protest against what he has called injustices against minorities in America by again refusing to stand for the national anthem Thursday night during the team’s game against the San Diego Chargers.
He was joined this time by his teammate, safety Eric Reid as a large flag was displayed over the field at Qualcomm Stadium just before the Chargers’ Salute to the Military preseason game. As they both kneeled, scattered jeers could be heard through the crowd. Kaepernick was also greeted with profanities and obscene gestures as he left the field after pregame warmups. A sign in the crowd read: “You’re an American. Act like one.”
However, Kaepernick did applaud and remained standing during a halftime rendition of “God Bless America.” After the game, which the 49ers won 31-21, he explained that he was not trying to insult America or the military.
Kaepernick said he plans to continue his protests during the regular season. He also intends to donate $1 million “to different organizations to help these communities and help these people,” declining to provide specifics.
“I’m not anti-American. I love America,” said Kaepernick, who stayed on the field long after the game to sign autographs for enthusiastic fans. “I love people. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to help make America better, and I think having these conversations helps everybody have a better understanding of where everybody is coming from.”
In support of Kaepernick, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane sat on his team’s bench as the national anthem was played during the Thursday game against the Oakland Raiders. He told reporters that, like Kaepernick he would continue to sit until he felt that justice was being served. “I thought about it about a week or so…I just thought, you know, it’s okay for me to do,” he said. “I don’t mean any disrespect to anybody. I’m just standing behind what I believe in.”
Kaepernick’s protest has been the talk of the NFL preseason since he chose to sit on the bench last Friday during the 49ers game against the Green Bay packers. He explained at the time that he would not stand for a flag that he said “oppressed Black people and people of color.” The comments ignited a firestorm of controversy with some showing support and others strongly criticizing his decision.
But the decision to kneel during the Chargers game rather than sit on the bench game from a discussion with Nate Boyer, a former Seahawks long snapper and ex-Army Green Beret, who wrote an open letter to Kaepernick in the Army Times. According to ESPN, a discussion between the two, and also Reid resulted in an agreement to take a knee as a sign of respect to the military.
“As we talked about it, we came up with taking a knee because there are issues that still need to be addressed and there was also a way to show more respect for the men and women that fight for this country,” Kaepernick said. Boyer stood next to the two during the anthem while they kneeled.
Amid the controversy, Kaepernick’s future with the 49ers is still unclear. The team must still decide whether or not Blaine Gabbert will be named starting quarterback once the NFL season starts with Kickoff Weekend on Sept. 8. The one-time Super Bowl quarterback underwent surgery on his thumb, knee and shoulder during the offseason and his effectiveness on the gridiron has been scrutinized. Leading to speculation of him being benched or traded.
However, the 28-year-old has not commented publicly about those possibilities as the controversy over the anthem has taken a larger position.
Domenique Banks, a 23-year-old fan from nearby Oceanside, California, got the quarterback to sign his Kaepernick jersey before the game. “I told him I appreciate what he is standing up for,” Banks said. “He said he appreciated it. Most of the people I talk to say the same thing. I don’t like that he is sitting during the national anthem, but I appreciate what he is standing for.”
The 49ers open their season against the St. Louis Rams on Sept. 12.