San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick spoke at length following his team’s practice on Sunday regarding his decision to remain seated during the playing of the national anthem, further explaining his rationale while also making a plea for accountability and criticizing presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Kaepernick, a sixth-year man out of Nevada, initiated his stance in protest of police violence earlier this month at the start of San Francisco’s preseason slate, and told NFL Media, “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” following a game against the Green Bay Packers on Friday night.
Speaking to reporters at the 49ers’ training facility for more than 18 minutes, Kaepernick didn’t back down from his position as he passionately elaborated on his stance. Per Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, Kaepernick did not duck any of the 30-plus questions that came his way.
Kaepernick said he will continue to sit during the playing of the anthem before games until “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.” When asked what he is trying to accomplish with his stance, he said that, “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.”
He went on to admit that his opinion has evolved over time and that he “wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it originally.” And when asked what he would say to people who see the American flag as a symbol of the military, he noted that he has “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.”
Kaepernick added that he believes those who have fought for this country have “given me this opportunity by the contributions they have made.”
When asked if he feels that his position could be seen as a distraction to the 49ers, Kaepernick said no and added that he feels it’s something that can “unify this team.” He also admitted to being aware that the situation may cost him his job or any endorsements, saying that “those are things I’m prepared to handle and those are things that, you know, other people might not be ready for. 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.”
When directly questioned whether he feels he might be cut, Kaepernick responded, “I don’t know. But if I do, I know I did what’s right and I can live with that at the end of the day.”
Near the end of the media scrum, Kaepernick was asked if the pending presidential election had anything to do with the timing of his actions. He replied that “the two presidential candidates that we currently have also represent the issue that we have in this country right now.” When asked to expound, he said, “I mean, you have Hillary [Clinton] 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?”
As for the response in the 49ers’ locker room, the consensus appears to be that Kaepernick’s teammates, for the most part, are respectful of his stance.
According to Kawakami, the 49ers held a team meeting before Sunday’ practice at which Kaepernick spoke, telling his teammates that they can and should approach him to discuss the issue at any time. The Bay Area News Group’s Cam Inman took video of Kaepernick’s remarks, which can be seen broken into five parts via Inman’s Twitter account below.