Colin Kaepernick didn’t take a seat for the national anthem Thursday night, but he wasn’t standing either. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback chose to kneel while the anthem played, and this time he wasn’t alone.
San Francisco safety Eric Reid, a fourth-year player out of LSU, also took a knee on the sideline in San Diego, joining Kaepernick in a show of support for the quarterback’s protest as the crowd booed ahead of the preseason finale between the 49ers and Chargers, a game won by San Francisco, 31-21.
It was the fourth time in four games Kaepernick did not stand during the anthem, although Thursday’s game was under a larger magnifying glass after comments he made following last Friday’s game that drew the ire of many and sparked a heated national debate. (He was not in uniform for the first two games.)
“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 told NFL Media after last Friday’s game against the Green Bay Packers. “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.”
It wasn’t just the two San Francisco players choosing not to stand this week. Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane also remained sitting during the playing of the anthem in Oakland, although it has not been confirmed if his actions were in solidarity with Kaepernick or for other reasons.
In San Diego, Thursday’s game was “Military Night,” and it was noted that Kaepernick applauded when veterans were recognized in the stands and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” played.
Kaepernick has said his criticism is not directed at members of the armed forces and has said he has “great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country.” Some veterans expressed their support of Kaepernick.
Kaepernick said last Sunday he would continue sitting during the playing of the anthem.
“Yes, I’ll continue to sit,” Kaepernick said then. “I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. 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.”
The 49ers haven’t directly addressed Kaepernick’s activism, but did release the following statement after last Friday’s game.
“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,” the statement (via NFL.com) reads. “In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
Kaepernick started Thursday’s game.
After the game, he pledged to donate $1 million to charities that support racial equality. “I plan to take it a step further,” Kaepernick said, per CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco. “I’m currently working with organizations to be involved and making sure I’m actively in these communities, as well as donating the first million dollars I make this season to different organization to help these communities and help these people.”