- The Washington Times
Saturday, August 27, 2016

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made waves with his preseason debut Friday evening against the Packers, but not on account of his performance. The 28-year-old Super Bowl vet caused a stir after it was reported that he sat down instead of standing when the national anthem was played prior to Friday’s game in Green Bay.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Mr. Kaepernick told NFL Media in an interview published Saturday. “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 quarterback’s explanation was published shortly after the 49ers acknowledged his actions in a statement early Saturday and defended the athlete’s constitutional rights.

“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony,” the team said. “It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

Mr. Kaepernick was not asked about his behavior by reporters during a post-game press briefing, and his actions went largely unnoticed until NBC Sports published an article early Saturday as discussions began to swell on social media well after the 49er’s 21-10 loss.

“Why does Colin Kaepernick hate America?” Barstool Sports editor-and-chief Keith Markovich asked on Twitter early Saturday.

ESPN SportsCenter anchor Linda Cohn called the quarterback’s actions “unacceptable” and “disappointing” in a tweet of her own. 

Neither the league nor his team were told in advanced that the quarterback would sit during the anthem, Mr. Kaepernick told NFL Media.

“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.”

The NFL did not immediately respond when asked by Mercury News on Saturday if the quarterback risks any disciplinary action as a result of sitting-out the national anthem.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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