Colin Kaepernick took a stand against police violence on Friday night by taking a seat. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on Friday because, he said, “There are bodies in the street.”
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game that the 49ers lost, 17-3. “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.”
This is not the first time the 28-year-old has spoken out against police violence. Kaepernick has long been a supporter of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, recently taking a stand in the wake of the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“This is what lynchings look like in 2016!” he wrote on Instagram accompanying a video of Sterling’s shooing. “Another murder in the streets because the color of a man’s skin, at the hands of the people who they say will protect us. When will they be held accountable? Or did he fear for his life as he executed this man?”
The 49ers remained mum about Kaepernick’s activism until Friday night’s protest. The team released a statement neither condemning nor celebrating Kaepernick’s actions.
“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,” the statement (via NFL.com) reads. “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.”
Even if the team condemned him, Kaepernick said it would not have changed his mind about his protest on Friday.
“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 refusal to stand for the anthem, as expected, has earned him some backlash from football fans. It’s also, however, earned him accolades. A scan of Twitter on Saturday afternoon showed both types of responses.
Kaepernick’s latest protest follows in the footsteps of other athletes who have also refused to stand for the national anthem over various political and social concerns.
Most prominently, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the anthem when he played for the Denver Nuggets in 1996, citing the flag as a symbol of oppression. The former third overall draft pick was suspended by the NBA for one game.
The NFL has not commented on whether Kaepernick, who is entering his sixth season in the league, could face similar or any repercussions.