The NFL on Saturday reacted to Colin Kaepernick’s decision to make a Civil Rights statement by sitting during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
“Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in a statement to CSNBayArea.com.
Kaepernick took a seat on the 49ers' bench near midfield on Friday night as the national anthem was played prior to the team's exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers. A source said Kaepernick also did not stand during the anthem prior to the 49ers’ game at Denver last Saturday. Kaepernick was in street clothes for the 49ers’ first two exhibition games.
Kaepernick explained his stance in an interview with Steve Wyche of NFL Media.
"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 said. "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."
Kaepernick added: "This is not something that I am going to run by anybody. 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."
Late Friday night, the 49ers released a statement about Kaeepernick’s protest:
“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. 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.”
All indications are that Kaepernick’s protest will have no bearing on his roster spot. He has been in competition with Blaine Gabbert for the starting job. The 49ers’ final exhibition game is set for Thursday at San Diego.
Gabbert is the overwhelming favorite to be chosen by coach Chip Kelly as the 49ers’ starting quarterback to open the regular season. Kaepernick’s scheduled salary of $11.9 million for the upcoming season is fully guaranteed.