SANTA CLARA, California — Defiant, and determined to be a conduit for U.S. change, Colin Kaepernick plans to sit through the national anthem for as long as he feels is appropriate and until he sees significant progress in America — specifically when it comes to race relations.
He knows he could be cut by the San Francisco 49ers for this stand against police brutality against minorities. Criticized, ostracized, and he’ll go it all alone if need be.
The quarterback realizes he might be treated poorly in some road cities, and he’s ready for that, too, saying he’s not overly concerned about his safety, but “if something happens that’s only proving my point.”
“I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” Kaepernick said at his locker on Aug. 28.
“To me this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
Kaepernick hasn’t stood for the anthem in any of the team’s three NFL preseason games, and insists whatever the consequences, he will know “I did what’s right.” He said he hasn’t heard from the NFL or anyone else about his actions, and it won’t matter if he does.
“No one’s tried to quiet me and, to be honest, it’s not something I’m going to be quiet about,” he said.
“I’m going to speak the truth when I’m asked about it. This isn’t for look. This isn’t for publicity or anything like that. This is for people that don’t have the voice. And this is for people that are being oppressed and need to have equal opportunities to be successful. To provide for families and not live in poor circumstances.”
Kaepernick took the field on Aug. 28 with the 49ers as his stance drew chatter across NFL camps. He explained his viewpoints to teammates in the morning, some agreeing with his message but not necessarily his method.
Some said they know he has offended his countrymen, others didn’t even know what he had done.
“Every guy on this team is entitled to their opinion. We’re all grown men,” linebacker NaVorro Bowman said.
“I agree with what he did, but not in the way he did it,” wideout Torrey Smith said. “That’s not for me. He has that right. Soldiers have died for his right to do exactly what he did. … I know he’s taken a lot of heat for it. He understands that when you do something like that it does offend a lot of people.”
Both Bowman and Smith are African-American.
Kaepernick criticized Presidential candidates Donald Trump (“openly racist”) and Hillary Clinton; called out police brutality against minorities; and pushed for accountability of public officials.
After swirling trade talks all offseason following Kaepernick’s three surgeries and sub-par 2015 season, he has done everything so far but play good American football, and he doesn’t plan for this to be a distraction.
Coach Chip Kelly has said Kaepernick has the right to stand or not stand for the anthem. Kaepernick was prepared for whatever comes next.
“There’s a lot of consequences that come along with this. There’s a lot of people that don’t want to have this conversation,” he said.
“They’re scared they might lose their job. Or they might not get the endorsements. They might not be treated the same way. Those are things I’m prepared to handle. …
“At this point, I’ve been blessed to be able to get this far and have the privilege of being able to be in the NFL, making the kind of money I make, and enjoy luxuries like that. I can’t look in the mirror and see people dying on the street that should have the same opportunities that I’ve had.”
(JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer)