On Friday evening, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stayed seated during the singing of the national anthem prior to his team’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. It became a national story on Saturday after someone tweeted a photo of Kaepernick seated during the anthem.
It became arguably the biggest NFL story of the preseason when Kaepernick explained that he refuses to stand during the anthem because, “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.”
On Sunday, Kaepernick conducted an 18-plus minute question and answer session with Bay Area reporters in which he addressed the reasons behind his protest, whether or not it will continue, what he hopes to accomplish, and more.
“I mean, ultimately it’s to bring awareness and make people realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust, people aren’t being held accountable for, and that’s something that needs to change.
That’s something that-this country stands for freedom, liberty, justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”
Will he continue to sit?
“Yes. I’ll continue to sit. I’m going to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me this is something that has to change and when there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent in this country-is representing the way that it’s supposed to-I’ll stand.”
Does he plan to do anything beyond sitting during the anthem?
“Yeah, most definitely. There are things I have in the works right now, that I’m working on to put together in the future and have come to fruition soon.
Those are things I’ll talk about as we get closer to those days.”
What does he say to people who view his stance as disrespectful to the military?
“I have great respect for men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country.
They fight for freedom. They fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice for everyone. And that’s not happening.
People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. It’s something that’s not happening.
I’ve seen videos. I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought for and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.”
Does Kaepernick feel personally oppressed?
“There have been situations where I feel like I’ve been ill-treated, yes. But this stand wasn’t for me. This stand wasn’t because I feel like I’m being put down in any kind of way.
This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and affect change.
So I’m in a position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.”
“I mean, I’ve had times where one of my roommates was moving out of a house in college and because we were the only black people in that neighborhood, the cops got called and all of us had guns drawn on us. I mean, came in the house without knocking, guns drawn, on one of my teammates and roommates.
So I have experienced this. People close to me have experienced this. This isn’t something that’s a one-off case here, a one-off case there.
This has become habitual, it’s become a habit. It’s something that needs to be addressed.”
How did teammates respond?
“The support I’ve got from my teammates has been great. I think a lot of my teammates come from areas where this might be a situation-their families might be put in this situation.
It’s something that I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say I really respect you for what you’re doing and what you’re standing for.
So to me that’s something that I know when I’m doing what’s right and I know other people see what I’m doing is right… is something that we have come together, we have to unite, we have to unify and make a change.”
Why does he think he’s the only player to take this stand?
“I think 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, they’re scared they might lose their job or they might not get the endorsements, they might not be treated the same way.
And those are things I’m prepared to handle and those are things that, you know, other people might not be ready for.
It’s just a matter of where you’re at in your life, where your mind’s at.
At this point, I’ve been blessed to be able to get this far and have the privilege of being in the NFL and making the kind of money I make and enjoy luxuries like that…
But I can’t look in the mirror and see other people dying in the street that should have the same opportunities that I’ve had and say, you know what, I can live with myself. Because I can’t if I just watch.”
Does the election have anything to do with his stance?
“Once again, it wasn’t a timing thing. It wasn’t something that was planned.
But I think the two presidential candidates that we currently have also represent the issue that we have in this country right now.”
“I mean, you have Hillary who’s called black teens or black kids super-predators.
You have Donald Trump who’s openly racist.
I mean, we have a presidential candidate who’s deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate. That doesn’t make sense to me, because if that was any other person, you’d be in prison.
So what is this country really standing for?”
More, when asked why people question outrage when the United States has twice elected a black president:
“It has elected a black president. But there are also things-a lot of things-that haven’t changed. There are a lot of issues that still haven’t been addressed.
And that’s something over an eight-year term, there’s a lot of those things that are hard to change and there’s a lot of those things that he doesn’t necessarily have complete control over.”
The entire Q&A is well worth reading. (Here’s the link again.) This is something Kaepernick has obviously put a lot of thought into and believes in deeply. He stood in front of reporters and took questions for a whole lot longer than most players normally do, and eloquently addressed all the pertinent issues about why he’s chosen to take this stand and what he hopes to accomplish with it. It’s just a shame that, at least so far, more has been said about his decision not to stand during the anthem than the reasons he has chosen to make that decision.